From left

Health care tops councillor candidates debate

Bringing 24-hour health care to Houston was the most talked-about issue among councillor candidates at the Nov. 8 municipal election forum.

A long-standing effort to bring 24-hour health care to Houston was the most talked-about issue among councillor candidates at the Nov. 8 municipal election forum.

Incumbent Shane Brienen, the first councillor candidate to speak, began by noting what a large audience turned up to listen and ask questions.

“I’ve never seen a crowd quite this big for all-candidates, so thank you for coming out,” he said Brienen.

Brienen said that previous councils have made around-the-clock care a top priority, and have already spent at least a dozen years trying to get it.

That service is critical to Houston’s night-shift workers, heavy equipment operators and to people who work in forests far from town, he said.

Not having 24-hour care is also keeping some people from moving to Houston, he added, estimating that roughly 200 people commute to Houston from Smithers or Burns Lake.

Council incumbent Bob Wheaton echoed those concerns and praised an idea floated this September by B.C.’s health minister—to have the province pay for foreign doctors’ mandatory internships in return for signing a five-year contract in a B.C. town in need of doctors.

Dawn Potvin, a new contender for council, said that working at the Houston health centre she has seen that recently added care beds have already meant fewer families have to drive out to Smithers for care.

Potvin also welcomed new specialist services at the local clinic and said she would join the call for expanded services. Still, she said she’s also a realist.

“We are not going to have a six-floor hospital with a surgical ward in Houston.”

Hank Buursema, an incumbent with 19 years on council, said adding more extended care beds is an important next step for Houston seniors.

“Our seniors should be able to retire here, and continue to live in Houston among family and friends,” he said.

Buursema added that the District should build more sidewalks like the one on 11th Street and widen the sidewalks by the Health Centre and up Mountain View Drive.

Jonathan Van Barneveld, who is finishing a UNBC forestry degree, said Houston could work more closely with the university and its nursing program to better staff its health centre.

Shifting to the economy, Barneveld summed up a position echoed by many candidates for council and for mayor.

“We have some of the basics, but we don’t have all of the basics,” he said. “And that’s true for health care, social services and of course retail.”

To secure the local economy, Van Barneveld said Houston needs to look ahead to its future timber supply, which is likely to drop after the beetle-killed wood is gone.

Van Barneveld added that Houston relies too much on forestry already. He highlighted the role local entrepreneurs can play in diversifying the economy.

“We can’t totally rely on external businesses to come to town and save the day,” he said.

Council incumbent Rick Lundrigan noted the work the previous council did to keep property tax increases to one, one-and-a-half, and zero per cent in the last three years.

Lundrigan also said Houston is well-situated to have an inland port—a hub for container trucks heading to and from Prince Rupert.

“Logbook-wise, it works out very well,” he said.

Brienen also singled out the Prince Rupert port as the northwest project most likely to bring more people to Houston.

“If you look at anywhere that they’ve ever put a port in, the area grows,” he said, adding that the District can anticipate that with “shelf-ready” projects.

Two of Houston’s eight council candidates did not attend the forum—Tim Smith and Michalle Jolly. Both had pre-written speeches read by moderator Ted Beck.

Tim Smith apologized for missing the forum, writing “I am in camp working on my dream job as a hunting guide.” Smith has recently retired, and said he now has the time to serve as councillor and make the local economy his top priority.

Candidate Michalle Jolly also apologized, writing that she was unable to attend because her seven-year-old son had fallen sick and was in hospital.

In her speech, Jolly praised recent additions to Houston’s health care services and referred to a 2010 Community Capacity report led by former councillor Bill Arkinstall.

That report set out a long list of services—such as public transit and a safe house—that Houston needs to better care for those living on low incomes.

“Each of these concerns affects the life of all Houston residents,” she said.

The crowd last Monday night was mostly quiet during candidates’ speeches, but Shane Brienen won a strong round of applause when he closed by telling residents to phone him whenever they had a problem.

“You want me to come over and look at where we drove over your front yard or piled snow or broke your street light, I’ll show up there—I enjoy that.”

 

Just Posted

Bulkley Valley SD 54 superintendent leaving

Chris van der Mark has been superintendent with SD54 for eight years, and has hands full in Cariboo.

B.C. chiefs show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Chiefs from around B.C. outside the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in Smithers show support.

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

RCMP to review actions at Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest camps

Senior Mountie says he hopes protests will be peaceful following deal with hereditary chiefs

Houston property assessments nudge up

District now working on 2019 spending plans

UPDATE: B.C. legislature managers accused of excessive travel, personal expense claims

Clerk Craig James, security chief Gary Lenz call allegations ‘completely false’

B.C. man fined $10,000 after leaving moose to suffer before death

Surrey man was convicted last week on three Wildlife Act charges

‘Blue Monday’ isn’t real, but depression can be

CMHA encourages people to prioritize their mental health

Anti-pipeline group wants NEB to consider impact of emissions, climate change

Stand.earth filed NEB motion asking to apply same standard to the project as it did with Energy East pipeline

Parole granted for drunk driver who killed B.C. RCMP officer

Kenneth Jacob Fenton will be able to attend alcohol abuse treatment, nearly three years after crash that killed Const. Sarah Beckett

B.C. man charged in 2014 snake venom death of toddler

Henry Thomas was taking care of the North Vancouver girl the day before she died

B.C.’s largest public-sector union wants inquiry into money laundering, drugs

Union officials say Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby have not ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry

Teen in confrontation with Native American: I didn’t provoke

Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School said he was trying to defuse the situation

Kamala Harris opens U.S. presidential bid in challenge to Trump

The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign

Most Read