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Harry Lali nominated as BC NDP candidate for Fraser-Nicola.

Previously elected four times as an MLA, Lali was nominated again today as the BC NDP candidate for Fraser-Nicola at the Merritt Civic Centre.

Lali says he's ready to take on the BC Liberals, and try to win back the riding he lost to incumbent Jackie Tegart in 2014.

"We'll I've been looking forward to this for a while. And, I'll take the fight to the BC Liberals. Obviously, they've created quite a mess in British Columbia in terms of healthcare, education with the closing of 280 schools across the province, and basically leaving forestry in shambles. There's no better place to look then here in Merritt, where over 200 jobs were lost with the Tolko shutdown."

Though he publicly endorsed Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Aaron Sam for the nomination, BC NDP Leader John Horgan is firmly behind Lali, in what is shaping up to be one of the impactful races in May's election.

"Harry Lali has a long record of standing up for people and communities in BC's interior. It's time for a government that works for everyone all across BC."

Joining Lali on the ballot May 9th in Fraser-Nicola, the aforementioned incumbent Tegart with the BC Liberals, and the Green Party's Arthur Green.

 

BC's Forests minister hearing concerns from the City of Merritt over timber allocated locally to Tolko Industries, that is now being processed in other communities.

Steve Thomson met with Merritt's Mayor and Council today to discuss apportionment in the Merritt Timber supply area, and the city's concerns following the shutdown of the Tolko sawmill back in December.

"If we're going to maintain the license for other companies like Aspen Planers and Weyerhaeuser, then we have to maintain them for Tolko as well. We can't just target one license. Our commitment though is to continue to work with the community, and the City of Merritt to transition to new opportunities."

Thomson says apportionment decisions can only be made when the annual allowable cut is reviewed every 10-years, and that what companies do with their individual licenses, is their decision.

Mayor Neil Menard said earlier this week that the City of Merritt was prepared to do all it can do to prevent additional impact on remaining local sawmills.

The province is investing $2.2 million into a 3-year pilot project that will explore new ways of managing invasive plants in the Thompson-Nicola region.

In making the announcement in Merritt today, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations minister Steve Thomson says the project aims to expand and improve current efforts to contain and eradicate spotted knapweed and other invasive plants by coordinating treatments on Crown land and private land.

"Everybody realizes that this is a significant issue. Invasive plants have a significant impact on our ranching community, the eco-system and our grasslands. By coming together I'm confident we will be able to have an impact, and if this new approach is successful in the TNRD, we'll expand it around the province."

TNRD broad chair John Ranta says the funding provides a 150% increase on previous amounts allocated invasive plant management in the region.

"Given the challenges of managing with knapweed and other invasive plants, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District welcomes the opportunity to participate in this pilot project. Having funding confirmed in advance, as well as the increase in funding, should help us win the battle with the weeds."

The collaboration involved in the project was spearheaded by Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart, who met with area stakeholders over the last month to make sure all were appeased.

"The strategy released today is the outcome of an extensive stakeholder process that I had the pleasure of leading. Ranching is an important economic driver in the Thompson Nicola, and invasive plants are a major threat to ranching viability."

Some of the funding will also support research being undertaken by Thompson Rivers University for a centre of excellence on invasive plant management to deepen the understanding and identify new opportunities for new treatment approaches and restoration of impacted ecosystems.

Merritt paramedics petitioning to be designated as an essential service.

Local paramedic Leanne Dynneson says goal of the initiative is to give ambulance the same collective bargaining rights as firefighters and police officers, under a newly named Ambulance, Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act.

If granted the rights, she says paramedics would be able to bargain for more full time position.

“Right now, it takes a part-time paramedic about five-years become full-time. But, if we could bargain more for full-time position, more people would stick it out. Right now, we are losing so many paramedics in the process, because how can you support a family?"

Dynneson says when working part-time while on call, paramedics are paid as little as $2 an hour.

Local paramedics are collecting signatures today at the Merritt Legion until 4pm.

Paramedics across the province need to collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in each of BC's electoral districts by April 9th, if they want the petition to succeed.

 

Merritt's emergency cold weather shelter too busy to close doors.

Nicola Valley Shelter and Support Society coordinator Amery Schultz says a new record was set for overnight visits already this winter, and despite the warmer conditions the number continues to climb.

"Our numbers are still consistently up. We are averaging over five folks a night still. And, with Environment Canada predicting the temperatures to drop again next week we should continue to see similar numbers the rest of the month." 

Due to the need, and despite the funds running dry, Schultz says the shelter will remain open 24/7 through the month of March.

"We've got some money still coming in, but it's tight."

Schultz expects overnight stays to push well past 700, eclipsing the record number set last winter of 560.

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