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Clean water, employment Routley’s banner issues for 2014

NDP MLA Bill Routley speaks to his supporters in Cowichan Bay May 14, 2013, after being re-elected amid a Liberal victory. He was joined by wife Charmaine, and granddaughter Sarah Deschamps. - Peter W. Rusland/file
NDP MLA Bill Routley speaks to his supporters in Cowichan Bay May 14, 2013, after being re-elected amid a Liberal victory. He was joined by wife Charmaine, and granddaughter Sarah Deschamps.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

With the bittersweet results of the 2013 fading into the background, Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley is focused on 2014.

Routley considers election night “a highlight and a lowlight at the same time,” as he was re-elected while watching the rival B.C. Liberal Party win a surprise majority.

“I’m thankful to the good people of the Cowichan Valley for the opportunity to represent them again in legislature,” he said. “Obviously, politicians hope to see the opportunity be in power, so from that point of view, it was disappointing we won’t have the opportunity to make change in areas we see as growing issues in the province today.”

One example is the sad fact that B.C. has been one of the highest-ranked provinces in Canada in food bank use.

“We’ve seen the number of people rise to 94,000 people in B.C. in 2013 — that’s not a record any government should want on their file,” he said. “One in three of those was a child. And if you include teenagers under the age of 18, that number rises to one in two. We do have this rising gap between the very rich and those living near the bottom of the wage scale.”

Routley also identified rising BC Ferries and BC Hydro rates as important issues in the past year and moving forward.

Another concern for Routley is health care and hospital overcrowding.

“The numbers are beyond the point where if we had any crisis at all, we’re already full and overflowing at our hospital in the Cowichan Valley,” he said. “The government is not doing enough to deal with health care in the Cowichan Valley and in B.C. These are the kind of issues I hope to raise now that the Legislature is finally going back.”

Another of those issues is drinking water protection, particularly in the light of contaminated soils being trucked into the Cowichan Valley.

“Some of the soil in Victoria is called contaminated soil in Victoria at the site; it magically transforms into industrial waste when it gets to the Cowichan Valley,” he said.

“Or they’ve discovered contaminated soil that’s been dumped in some places, sometimes illegally. I’ll certainly be raising the issue of the importance of good, clean drinking water and that we shouldn’t be making human intervention that puts water in danger of contamination.”

Routley’s focus during this sitting of the legislature will be dealing with whatever changes are brought forward.

“For the Cowichan Valley perspective, I’d like to see protecting water,” he said. “The budget speech (talked) about employment and how we have some of the highest youth unemployment in the Cowichan Valley. That’s something we’re not at all happy about, but it’s true we have far too many of the youth who are unemployed.”

As he looks ahead at the coming year, Routley says he knows the government is planning “all kinds of” legislative changes.

“In the old days, we actually had debate in legislature,” he said. “Now, we have the little house and the big house. And now we have a third house. During the estimates process, when they’re doing their budgets … you will have to run between floors if you have more than one issue. It becomes more difficult to have the kind of democratic exchange you’d like.”

Despite all these issues, Routley says there are a lot of things to be positive about.

“There are a lot of good things to bite my teeth into,” he said, noting that through his constituency office, he does a lot of advocating for seniors and for people dealing with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. “

I do enjoy that part of my job, the fact that we get to advocate on a number of issues on behalf of our constituents. I do like to be here for my constituents and listen to what their issues are and see if we can change for the future.”

Routley feels grateful to be in the Cowichan Valley and representing the people of this riding.

“After having heart surgery, I have a new perspective, and every day above ground is a good one,” he said. “I want to temper my issues and complaints. I’ve also got lots to be grateful for. I have a wonderful wife, five wonderful grandchildren and two amazing golden retrievers.”

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