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ICBC

When the time comes to insure your car or truck or RV in BC you only have one option, ICBC. The insurance corporation was created back in 1973 and since day one has held a monopoly on basic insurance, while also offering optional additional coverage.

In 1977 the monopoly was limited to just basic insurance as the Province enacted legislation to allow private insurers to offer additional coverage. The model has stayed the same ever since.

During a conversation with Q101 Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson brought up his belief that it’s time for the monopoly to come to an end.

“People say oh there’s an increase on the carbon tax on July 1st, a couple cents per litre, and oh here’s the employer’s health tax that is going to have to be payed through property taxes. Just one thing piles up after another and of course on September 1st we’re all going to get a big kick in the shins from ICBC because they’re releasing the new rate then, and they’re going to go up significantly,” said Wilkinson.

“It’s time that British Columbians get a choice on their auto insurance. We see no reason why ICBC needs to be a state-run monopoly,” added Wilkinson. “It’s the only one in the world like this. So, lets have a look at the choices and give consumers a choice.”

“Why are you given a big bill from the Government of British Columbia for auto insurance, nobody else does it that way,” added Wilkinson. “Start with things like trucks or taxis, there’s about 5,000 taxis in this province. Why can’t they have a choice between commercial insurance and government insurance, tell me a reason why they shouldn’t have it. There is no credible reason, but the NDP are so devoted to having the Government run your life they’ve decided that ICBC is the only choice you’re going to have, in other words you have no choice.”

 

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CITYOFMERRITT

Due to a lack of manpower at City Hall, committees haven’t been fully utilized since the last election. However, with the recent appointment of a new Director of Engineering, City Hall finally has a full compliment. With a full staff behind them Mayor Linda Brown suggested bringing committees back into the fold.

Sean Smith, Director of Corporate Services, spoke to the recommendation on the table during this week’s council meeting.

“We re-establish the environment committee in accordance with the terms of reference you see in the report. And that council provide direction to staff to create terms of reference for five committees,” said Smith.

The five committees are;

  • Airport Advisory Committee
  • Youth Advisory Committee
  • Emergency Executive Committee
  • Accessibility and Age Friendly Planning Committee
  • Tourism and Economic Development Committee

Currently there are three standing committees that have already been established.

  • Finance and Audit Committee
  • Police Committee
  • Policy Review Committee

The only committee that has been truly meeting regularly is the PNP Selection Committee.

Council accepted the recommendation by unanimous vote and the committees will begin to be formed in the coming weeks.

 

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Lumber

In the last two years there has been approximately 6,600 job losses across BC in the forestry industry.

In 2019 alone there has been 96 weeks of operational downtime announced, various curtailments, and six permanent mill closures.

Locally, Aspen Planers was forced to reduce from two shifts down to one at the beginning of June and at this point are barely accepting fibre over their scales due to the economics surrounding the cost of logs.

This week, Andrew Wilkinson, Leader of the BC Liberals and the Official Opposition was in Merritt speaking with the industry and he stopped by Q101 to discuss the issues forestry is facing.

“The Interior industry is the one that has been hit hard in the last ten weeks and they’re nowhere to be seen, that is the Provincial Government and John Horgan are just absent from the framework,” said Wilkinson. “Back in 2001,02,03, when the Americans hit us hard with tariffs, we we’re then in as the Provincial Government and we dragged in the Federal Government to talk about changes to employment insurance programs and job supports and a whole bunch of investment in community futures. The NDP have done nothing with the Federal Government and partly it’s because they’ve antagonised Ottawa so badly that they can’t ask for any favours for BC. So, we’re just left adrift here.”

While there has been plenty of finger pointing in Victoria as to who is to blame, workers sitting at home and their families need action.

“We’ve said that they should probably take a strong look at stumpage because it’s done on a one-year lag. A year ago, lumber prices were double what they are now, they’ve gone way down but the stumpage has stayed high,” said Wilkinson. “So, we’ve said they have to address that, bring in the Feds and probably look at reducing the carbon tax in forestry operations while we’re in this rough spot.”

With a Federal Election scheduled for this October, Wilkinson spoke to making sure the candidates in the riding feel pressure to focus on forestry.

“We have to look out for ourselves and we’re going to have to make more noise as a people with the Feds during this federal election. People here in Merritt should be pushing it as an election issue federally because the Provincial Government out of John Horgan will do nothing. But the Feds will come to the table with support and with funding for these transitions in the forest industry if they're pushed and now is the time to push them.”

“Interestingly John Horgan is at the annual Premier’s conference in Saskatoon right now and that’s an opportunity to build up a big coalition across the country,” began Wilkinson. “I spoke with Jason Kenney ten days ago and said look we need your help pushing Ottawa on the softwood lumber agreement with the US. We can do better if we work with other Provinces, but John Horgan has burnt the bridges with all the other Provinces, so he has no favours to pull in.”

“People are very concerned about the forestry industry and I think the core concern is that John Horgan and the NDP are nowhere to be seen. They just seem to take no interest whatsoever in these deep concerns of people throughout the Interior,” concluded Wilkinson

 

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Interior Health 2

The BC Coroners Service has published updated reports on illicit drug toxicity deaths and fentanyl-detected drug deaths to the end of May 2019.

The number of illicit drug-related deaths for the first five months of 2019 shows a year-over-year decrease, with 86 and 84 illicit drug-related deaths in April and May 2019 respectively, down from 137 and 116 for the same months for 2018.

Overall, there have been 462 illicit drug toxicity deaths in the first five months of 2019, down 30% from the 2018 total (651) over the same period. The data is subject to change and totals for 2019 will likely increase as post-mortem testing results are received, but it is a sign for cautious optimism.

More than two-thirds of the illicit-drug deaths in the first five months of 2019 involved people aged 30 to 59 years, and males account for almost four in every five of all illicit-drug deaths over the same period.

Fentanyl was the most prevalent drug found in those that died, followed by cocaine and methamphetamine.

Locally, the Interior Health region has reported 70 deaths since the beginning of 2019, compared to 233 in all of 2018. For the population size the deaths come in at 21.9 per 100,000. While the numbers have decreased significantly since last year, they’re still a far cry from 2012 when there was only 31 total deaths in the Interior.

Broken down further, Merritt falls into the Thompson Cariboo health services delivery area. The area has reported 23 deaths so far in 2019 compared to 86 in all of 2018.

Kamloops and Kelowna both find themselves in the top 10 cities for deaths in 2019. Kamloops is at #5 with 18 alone. Kelowna is #7 with 15.

Leading the charts is Vancouver where there has been 127 deaths this year.

 

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Wilkinson Reeve

This week Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart has been leading the BC Liberal Caucus through the riding meeting with constituents in Lillooet, Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Merritt.

Along with MLA Tegart and a whole host of other MLAs, Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has joined the tour connecting directly with locals to discuss the key issues they believe are plaguing British Columbia.

“Forestry is an ongoing issue throughout the Interior. I think we all know there has been a big fuss about Mountain Cariboo north of here. Also there has been a lot of mill closures going on, Merritt had the Tolko closure two years ago now. In the local area, there is the Chasm closure at 70 Mile and also closures at 100 Mile. And a lot of curtailments and lot of shifts being reduced. So, people are very concerned about the forest industry and I think the core concern is that John Horgan and the NDP are nowhere to be seen. They just seem to take no interest whatsoever in these deep concerns of people throughout the Interior,” said Wilkinson.

“We’ve got to make sure that people have a chance to get ahead and make a living here,” began Wilkinson. “If you don’t see a future for yourself here then Government has done something wrong. What we’re seeing right now is a complete indifference from John Horgan to the Interior. We’re in a crisis now in this forest industry and where is the Forest Minister, no where to be seen.”

Throughout the coming days Q101 will be featuring segments of our conversation with Andrew Wilkinson focusing on forestry, health care, agriculture and more.

 

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