Rob Newell, Director of Electoral Area G (Houston rural), has recently announced that he will be seeking re-election this fall.
If re-elected, this would be his third term representing Electoral Area G, which encompasses the District of Houston, the Village of Granisle, and the unincorporated communities of Fort Babine, Kuldo, Smithers Landing, Topley and Topley Landing.
Newell said there are several key issues that impact the continued health, economic stability and sustainability of the community that he would like to keep focusing on if re-elected.
One of these key issues is Internet connectivity.
“My involvement with this has been substantial over the past years and again is on the table at the upcoming Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM),” he said, referring to the UBCM convention that is taking place this week in Whistler.
“Affordable broadband has become essential for socio-economic development, education, health, federal and provincial communication and rural population migration,” he continued. “Not having access to these mechanisms means being cut off from opportunities that are afforded to the greater percentage of B.C. residents.”
In addition, Newell says the absence of cellphone coverage in many rural areas poses serious problems for Search and Rescue units, 911 and wildfire management.
Another key issue for Newell is rural health care delivery. According to Newell, 50 per cent of regional district residents live outside of municipal boundaries.
“Even inside our municipalities, the absence of sufficient community-based care is evident,” he told Houston Today. “This creates not only safety issues for our residents, but discourages migration into the area and encourages out-migration of our youth and senior population.”
Newell, who’s been involved with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako’s (RDBN) regional economic development action plan, said he would also like to focus on economic growth.
“NAFTA talks have only highlighted the need to diversify our trade sector,” he said. “This coupled with homegrown economies and the development of public private partnerships is I believe our road to continued success.”
He added that dedicated transit funding for local and inter-community transportation is also integral for future economic growth.
Furthermore, Newell stressed the importance of equitable revenue sharing for northwest B.C.
“The wealth of our nation and indeed our province is not dependent upon the urban service industry that feeds upon itself, nor upon the size of our population, but rather the location and volume of our resources,” said Newell. “Therefore the revenues generated by those resources should not be distributed by population, but rather by a formula that allows for development and maintenance in these rural resource locations.”
Earlier this year the province committed $300,000 to enable the Northwest B.C. Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) – a group of local governments that hopes to see the province reinvest money from resources generated in the northwest – to lock down a proposal to be sent back to the B.C. government.
“As part of the RBA, I will endeavor to work on a long-term sustainable infrastructure plan that includes funding formulas that are accountable, transparent, non-partisan, reliable and predictable,” said Newell.
Meanwhile Bill Miller, Director of Electoral Area B (Burns Lake rural) and RDBN chair, has recently announced he will not be seeking re-election after 10 years of involvement with the regional district.