Bond has served as the MLA for the Prince George-Valemount riding since 2001. She currently serves as the Shadow Minister for Health, Seniors Services and Long-Term Care. /SUPPLIED

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

As the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia enters the fifth session of its 42nd Parliament, Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond looks forward to advocating for more investments in rural communities, she told The Goat.

Bond said that she consistently hears from her constituents and other residents in rural B.C. that it feels as though the government prioritizes the needs of urban areas, neglecting rural communities in the process.

“I think that’s really discouraging and disheartening that people believe their government doesn’t think they matter,” she said. “That’s really an overarching principle — making sure that we are speaking up on behalf of people who feel like they are not directly being heard by [the provincial] government.”

Bond recalled that the Throne Speech which opened the current session of Parliament incorrectly suggested that Prince George is in northwestern B.C.

“To me, that’s just a symptom of being disconnected from the things that really matter to those of us who live in the north and in rural communities,” she said.

A number of examples illustrating the needs of rural communities came to mind for Bond. She lamented the lack of funding for healthcare in northern B.C.

“I was devastated to see not a single dollar, not a single reference to cardiac care in northern BC, or significant investments in the University Hospital of Northern BC,” she said. “We are the economic engine of British Columbia, and yet we can’t even get investment in absolutely critical care that would serve a whole region at UHNBC.”

She also referred to “Resourceful and Resilient,” a report published by the Office of the Seniors Advocate British Columbia. The report exposed troubling gaps in care available for seniors in rural and northern communities, said Bond.

Bond is also advocating for investments into rural transportation infrastructure, she told The Goat. While urban transit is important, it should not be the Province’s sole focus in conversations about infrastructure, she said.

“We need investments in highways in northern and rural communities as well,” she said. In particular, Highway 5 is in need of more passing lanes, funding, and enforcement of motor laws, she added.

Bond also hopes to diversify the economies of the rural communities she serves. She pointed out that the closure of the Renshaw snowmobile area is hurting McBride’s winter tourism economy, and said she has been working with representatives from McBride to communicate their concerns to the Province.

Bond says she intends to continue working with leaders of local government as she represents her riding in Parliament. She said she has a positive relationship with Simpcw First Nation Chief George Lampreau, as well as with elected officials in Valemount, McBride, and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.

“I’m very proud of the work that we do as a team in the Robson Valley region,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who’s elected at what level or what political persuasion they might be. What matters is that you speak together with one voice.”