Busy session for Okanagan MLA

MLA lists achievements

Being in opposition isn’t easy, but it is important.

Sometimes we have to drag the government, kicking and screaming, to the right decision for the betterment of British Columbians.

As we wrap up the spring session of the British Columbia Legislature, I wanted to pause and reflect on what was achieved over the past few months. It's been an intense but rewarding session, filled with debates, dialogues and occasional breakthroughs that remind us why we're here.

One of my proudest moments was securing funding for the Starbright Children's Development Centre. The institution, a cornerstone of our community in Kelowna for more than 57 years, does remarkable work to support children with developmental challenges and their families.

Things looked dire in December without any funding for the centre yet, with the government focusing all funds for the valley on a hub model pilot project.

While the government promised other supports would be kept intact, that was not what was happening in the Okanagan valley. The parents rallied, the administration and board started to express how dire the situation was, and the Opposition MLAs sprung into action.

I had the privilege of bringing the “feelings banner”, which the parents and children created during a public rally, to Victoria. I delivered it to the premier. It's why I do what I do, to make a real, tangible difference in the lives of my constituents.

Finally the government relented and signed a new contract with Starbright for another two years.

The funding will keep the services it offers, providing much-needed support for the children and their families. The work is not complete however, as the contract was only extended by two years.

On the last day of session, Starbright’s leadership came to the Legislative Assembly to meet with government and Opposition MLAs.

When asked by the media, the minister agreed to visit, to see firsthand the work the centre does. Hopefully that will result in a more permanent solution for the funding it so desperately needs.

But why was it only on the last day of session that the minister finally agreed to come?

The events of the last day of the session continued, during the last question of Question Period when Premier David Eby finally acknowledged the necessity to consider protections for children's parks against decriminalized and open drug use.

Opposition MLAs asked questions in the house for weeks as to why drug use was allowed in playgrounds and parks, and for this to change. Many municipal advocates, including Kelowna Mayor Dyas, have asked for this measure of protection for B.C.’s kids.

The Premier's recognition is a step in the right direction, but rest assured, I will continue to press for tangible policies and actions to ensure the safety of our children and communities.

B.C. United leader Kevin Falcon declared his caucus was willing to come back to the legislature at any time this summer to pass legislation to make that measure a reality.

Passage of the Pay Transparency Bill was another significant milestone this session. The BC United caucus introduced the legislation six times and championed transparency as a means to promote gender pay equality and eradicate wage discrimination. Finally, the NDP brought in a bill during this session. Seventh time’s the charm.

While far from perfect, the the bill reaffirms our commitment to building a more equitable society, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to support it.

As we bid goodbye to the spring session, I'm filled with gratitude and pride in what we've been able to achieve. From securing critical funding for the Starbright Children's Development Centre, advocating for safer communities, and supporting the Pay Transparency Bill, it's been a session of hard work, persistence, and progress.

When we get back to the fall session, I am committed to continuing this important work, to serve you better and make a positive difference in our community. The work we've done this session is a testament to what we can achieve together.

Having said that — I am so happy to be home. I look forward to seeing you around Kelowna and hearing firsthand what issues you are dealing with.

My question for you this week is this:

What is most pressing for you right now?

I love hearing from you and read every email you send. Email me at [email protected] or call the office at 250-712-3620.

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna-Mission.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Renee Merrifield is the BC United MLA for Kelowna - Mission and Opposition caucus whip and critic for Environment and Climate Change, Technology and Innovation and Citizens’ Services. She currently serves on the Select Standing Committee on Education as well.

A long-time resident of Kelowna, Renee started, and continues to lead, many businesses from construction and development to technology. Renee is a compassionate individual who cares about others in the community, believes in giving back and helping those in need through service.

She values your feedback and conversation, and can be reached at [email protected] or 250.712.3620

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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