LNG, Internet connectivity and local youth employment were on the menu when MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones sat down with Bowen residents at Artisan Eats last Friday.
“If today is any indication and I think is it, we talked about Woodfibre LNG a lot (and) ongoing deep concern,” Goldsmith-Jones told the Undercurrent.
Anton van Walraven of Concerned Citizens Bowen came prepared with documents outlining LNG environmental concerns that he shared with Goldsmith-Jones at the community roundtable.
“The herring is a key species between plankton and larger fish, so if the herring goes you won’t be seeing the dolphins, you won’t be seeing the whales (in Howe Sound),” said van Walraven.
Van Walraven said Goldsmith-Jones plays an important role as a direct conduit for relaying Bowen residents’ LNG concerns to Ottawa.
“(Pamela’s) a key person for us, because what we are doing here is supplying her with information, our investigative work,” said van Walraven. “She’s from the area, she understands concerns around Howe Sound.”
Van Walraven heard from Goldsmith-Jones that maps created by Squamish Streamkeepers member John Buchanan of Howe Sound herring spawning grounds have been used in federal government discussions.
“So that’s good to hear,” said van Walraven.
Goldsmith-Jones said she’s always feeding citizen-sourced LNG information forward to the appropriate federal ministries, adding “we’re being vigilant about the (LNG approval) conditions that are outlined.”
The island’s Internet connectivity – or lack thereof, rather – was on the mind of Bowen Coun. Michael Kaile who brought Goldsmith-Jones up to speed on the issue.
“The Internet is extremely slow, especially at peak times,” Kaile told the Undercurrent, adding that Bowen should be qualified as a rural location.”
In the spring the federal government announced ten B.C. Internet service providers would be receiving a total of approximately $16 million to increase broadband Internet access for approximately 23,000 households throughout rural B.C.
Bowen currently has two Internet suppliers, Telus and Shaw. Kaile said Shaw has assured they are going to increase Bowen’s Internet speeds in the summer.
Crawling Internet service is bad for business on Bowen, said Kaile, adding employed islanders feel “compelled” to go to the office on the mainland full-time, instead of telecommuting a couple days a week.
Goldsmith-Jones agreed Bowen “falls a little bit between the cracks in terms of (Internet) connectivity,” saying she plans on pursuing the issue when she gets back to Ottawa because it’s a priority and Bowen “can’t be left behind.”
Summer students on Bowen, employed at the library, sailing school, the parks and recreation department and Bowen Heritage through a federal summer jobs program, stopped by Artisan Eats to thank Goldsmith-Jones and the government for supporting them.
Goldsmith-Jones explained there is high unemployment for young Canadians under the age of 25, higher than any other age group.
“So that’s a genuine concern,” she said. “How do young people get experience? How do they earn a little bit of money so they can pay for school? For a place like Bowen Island, for them to be able to employ their own kids on the island solves a lot of problems.”
Goldsmith-Jones is coming off her first session in Ottawa since being elected last fall to represent the expansive West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country riding. She said she’s getting used to not living at home.
“I think back to being mayor (of West Vancouver) and how nice it was to drive from city hall home every night and regroup,” said Goldsmith-Jones on the ferry ride back to Horseshoe Bay after the meeting.
But she’s not complaining. The new job has also been rewarding. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Goldsmith-Jones is getting to know MPs on the hill and helping them understand Canada’s foreign policy and how they can contribute to it.
This past week Goldsmith-Jones, representing the foreign affairs minister, spoke on a panel at the Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference in Uruguay’s capital city.
“Our government is working very hard to demonstrate what inclusion means to us,” said Goldsmith-Jones.
“With regard to the empowerment of women, with regard to truth and reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples – so this fits with our main thrust and why we really wanted to be there (in Uruguay).”
With the House of Commons on recess, Goldsmith-Jones has made some summer plans including studying French in Quebec.
“In Ottawa, French is spoken a lot,” explained Goldsmith-Jones. “It’s much better to communicate with people in their own language. It’s out of respect for the fact Canada has two languages. It’s an asset.”