MLA-elect for Chilliwack, John Martin, has had just under two weeks to ponder his new role. While the longtime UFV criminologist waits for absentee ballots to be counted, he took a seat with The Progress to discuss Chilliwack’s future when it comes to healthcare, education, and the environment. The edited interview is below.
As one of his last acts in office, former MLA for Chilliwack, John Les, confirmed that UFV will receive $1 million for a new agricultural research centre. What other funding can we expect for UFV, especially for research?
There was a recognition that despite Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley being the agricultural breadbasket in the province, the educational component at the post-secondary level was somewhat lacking. And it’s not just here. In Western Canada, we really don’t have a world class, agricultural, post-secondary centre. Ontario has three alone.
This is where it’s going to happen. Out in the Canada Education Park, that plan for the Agricultural School of Excellence, is world class.
Nobody has a closer and longer connection to UFV than myself. There’s no institution that’s nearer and dearer to me than the University of the Fraser Valley, and I’ll always be an advocate and a champion for it.
How will you ensure that Chilliwack’s healthcare services continue to expand in line with our growing population?
The challenge is pretty straightforward. Our population is growing, and it’s growing older. And the pressure on health services has been increasing with those changes in demographics. Obviously that’s something that requires an expansion of services. Funding has to be looked at…Healthcare spending makes up the lion’s share of the budget, and healthcare spending will continue to grow. My job as an MLA is to ensure that Chilliwack gets its fair share of that allocated budget.
How do we overcome these funding challenges in healthcare?
We overcome it with the plan that Christy Clark got this government reelected on, and that is to grow the economy. There’s a number of ways to do that, but one in particular is to take advantage of the vast natural resources at our disposal. And in a safe and environmental manner, to be able to take advantage of the economic opportunities of our natural resources. If we don’t do those things, we’ll have trouble funding healthcare, education, frontline social services, infrastructure, and everything else.
While growing the economy, how do we ensure our environment is protected?
You follow the five-point plan that the premier laid out. For instance, with refineries or pipelines, we have to go through the rigorous environmental assessment. In the case of an accident, we have to have world class responses for both land and marine. Nobody wants to rape the land. We all live here, we all have family, we’re all considerate of the next generation. That’s not a partisan issue.
Does that five-point plan include royalties for B.C.?
In the instance where B.C. is simply being used as a thoroughfare, where an Alberta product is travelling across, because we would subsume the bulk of the environmental risk, obviously that has to be taken into account. That’s insurance…If B.C. is going to take its share — or its share and then some — of the risk, then it has to be in our interest.
What changes in Chilliwack can people expect from you?
I don’t really want to change a lot, because I am very happy — as obviously the voters in Chilliwack are very happy — with the representation they got from John Les and Barry Penner. I want to continue steering that course.
I’m thrilled to be the MLA-elect. It’s the most overwhelming show of trust that’s ever been put in me. It’s an enormous responsibility, and I’m just thrilled until a couple more weeks go by, and it’s all official, and we can get down to firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/alinakonevski