By Vanessa Broadbent
It’s been a “strange year” for MLA Linda Larson, mainly due to last year’s provincial elections which saw the NDP party take power, the politician said in a video interview with the Osoyoos Times and Oliver Chronicle.
Larson doesn’t see the change in government as a result of British Columbians turning against the Liberals, but rather evidence that the party wasn’t supported by the population in the Lower Mainland, who she says due to their large numbers have “control of what happens” in the province.
“If you take a look at the province as a whole, other than that pocket in the Lower Mainland, the Liberal vote was pretty strong and stable everywhere,” she said.
“The population there outnumbers the rest of us and we obviously did not deal with their issues in that particular pocket of population.”
With the change in government came a change in staffing in Victoria, and Larson has found that with most of those positions not yet filled, getting answers from the NDP party can be a struggle.
“I don’t really like anything about working with them. That’s not my job, to like them,” Larson said.
The change in government also saw an alliance between the Green Party and the NDP government, which Larson thinks has made voters uncomfortable.
“I think initially when they voted Green or NDP they weren’t thinking of them as together and I think that’s been something that a lot of people are scratching their heads about.”
Even though the election is over, with the Liberal leadership race currently underway the party hasn’t been working on developing any policies and Larson says this will continue until a new leader is in place.
Currently, she is using the time to focus on her own bill she wants to introduce: eliminating daylight savings time.
The bill was introduced last year but will need to be presented again to the new government. Larson plans on doing so in February.
“That’s a significant piece of legislation and I’m going to follow that through.”
The upcoming year also presents a few challenges for Larson, including flooding and legalization.
She says the water table is currently higher than it normally is in the winter, which has her concerned for spring.
As for marijuana, Larson says she is “not a fan,” at least not for legalizing the substance for recreational use.
“To be perfectly honest, I’ve never tried it in my life and I’ve never been a smoker so I don’t know that they’re that connected but there could be a connection there. But I really don’t believe in any kind of drug and I think marijuana is a drug.”
The last year came with a few victories for Larson’s office, including the removal of FortisBC’s two-tier system. However, she is disappointed that it is taking five years for the change to be implemented
“But I’m very glad that all of those letters that we had people write, everything that came through our office and all of the stuff we sent to the BCUC and to Fortis has finally paid off,” she said.
Larson also advocated for improvements at the South Okanagan General Hospital, which Interior Health recently announced they have included in this year’s budget. She says she’s thrilled to see the changes come into fruition.
“As far as the doctor’s salaries and looking at a new way to pay them that’s still out there … but I know that they are working on it and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that that one pans out in a way that makes our emergency doctors happy.”
Larson, who has been advocating for a hotel to be built in the area since the late 1990’s, is also looking forward to the opening of the Coast Hotel in downtown Oliver this year.
“I think it will be a huge benefit to the businesses on Main Street because everything is within walking distance for people and so it should be a boost for our local restaurants and shops. I’m really pleased to see that it’s finally come to the point where it’s being built.”
Going forward, it’s difficult to predict if this year will be as abnormal as the last. However, Larson does predict that it will be more difficult for her to continue working with the NDP government given that she no longer has direct access to any of the province’s ministers.
But she’s not planning on letting that hold her back.
“I have no problem walking up to any minister and asking for something for this riding.”