By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter

Prince George-Valemount riding NDP candidate Laura Parent would like to see more health care services provided in small communities and increased transportation options to help rural residents travel between communities. // AFH Photography

Laura Parent has three overriding principles guiding her run for office as the New Democratic Party candidate for the Prince George-Valemount riding.

“Advocacy, compassion, and empathy are really what I want to do and what I want to accomplish,” said Parent. “I want to be an MLA that can listen to people and listen to what they have to say and bring those concerns forward.”

Parent – a 21 year-old political science major at UNBC – believes she can advocate for the riding and bring changes in Prince George.

“Currently, our MLA (Shirley Bond) is a sweetheart and has done an excellent job for the past 19 years,” said Parent. “The reality is, she’s not in government and so her voice is really, really limited.”

For instance, the Province recently announced the creation of 7,000 new health care jobs for the long-term care sector and Parent believes she could advocate for some of those opportunities to land in the riding.

Rural communities need more health care services and Parent would like to see more services offered out of the Valemount Health Clinic.

“The riding of Prince George-Valemount has a lot of smaller communities,” said Parent. “It’s challenging for them when they have to travel long distances and (health services) are unreliable.”

The BC Rural Health Network started a petition calling on government to alleviate the financial burden for people accessing health care outside of their home communities.

Income should never be the determinant of what healthcare you can access, said Parent.

In rural communities, transportation can be a big part of the cost and stress of accessing health care.

“Transportation accessibility is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart,” Parent said. Her grandfather used to ride a Greyhound bus several times a year from the Lower Mainland to Prince George.

“It’s a long drive, and a dangerous drive, and a scary drive,” said Parent. “Now (the bus) is not an option.”

BC Bus North began bus service when Greyhound stopped serving many northern rural routes.

Parent committed to advocating for more frequent and affordable busing options running east from Prince George, adding that traveling from Valemount to

Prince George can be a really difficult trip for people to make, especially in winter.

Even better plowing of the highways could bring more peace of mind, she said.

“For someone that has to visit their loved one a long ways away,” she said, “it can mean a big difference.”

Seniors services
Small communities need more options for seniors housing and services, Parent said.

“As the MLA for Prince George-Valemount, I would push for better services, and better accessibility and better funded positions, and at the very least, better facilities and better infrastructure so that people can go and visit their loved ones,” Parent said.

The way that we treat our seniors says a lot about us as a province and our government, she said.

Parent also feels strongly about progressing Indigenous reconciliation.

Pipeline protests
“I think that young people like me, that’s why we need to be in government, we need to bring those other perspectives, those indigenous perspectives,” Parent said.

Parent sympathizes with both sides of the conflict.

“I think I understand the motives of both sides and why they’re frustrated, and why they turn to the means that they do,” said Parent. “It doesn’t mean it’s necessarily okay, but desperate people will go to desperate measures, unfortunately.”

Parent has seen civil protests from both sides: as a participant and a bystander.

“When you’re protesting, you have to be cautious in the way you make people feel because that can affect your cause and your outcome,” Parent said.

Parent comes from a logging family. Forestry management is important to her.

“There’s a very fine line between protecting biodiversity and supporting jobs in our communities,” she said.

More old growth should be protected by listening to the advice of experts, scientists, and Indigenous people, she said.

“So that looks like transitioning to a sustainable economy,” she said. “Really re-evaluating our forestry priorities.”

The world is in a climate crisis and we need to watch what we’re doing, she said.

“B.C. is a centre for resources and biodiversity in the globe,” Parent said. “It’s our job to be the stewards of that.”

Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / Rocky Mountain Goat / [email protected]