Michelle Stilwell said she was among friends June 18 at a chamber of commerce meeting at Pheasant Glen Golf Resort in Qualicum Beach, so she shared some of her experiences and talked about the responsibilities she’s taken on in her first year as Parksville-Qualiucm MLA.
In a light speech that made no mention of pipelines or teachers, Stilwell gave about 75 people in attendance a look into the personal challenges she’s faced since winning the seat a year ago and subsequently being named caucus chair and parliamentary secretary for both seniors and healthy living.
“It’s been a jam-packed, action-filled year,” said Stilwell. “I’m living the dream as your MLA.”
Stilwell spoke about her roles beyond being an MLA and how she got them. She was the only person nominated for the role of caucus chair, a position that acts as a liasion between the B.C. Liberal MLAs and the premier’s office and runs the meetings of those MLAs.
When she was slected as caucus chair, Stilwell was to take her seat beside the premier and party whip. Unfortunately, the gold-medal-winning Paralympian in wheelchair racing couldn’t take her spot because of a two-foot step where her designated chair sat.
“That was the first accessibility challenge I had at the Legislature,” said Stilwell. “The next day there was a ramp.”
Stilwell said before she was elected “I always thought government moved really slow,” but she said her view of that has changed. She said because health care eats up about 50 per cent of the provincial budget, her roles as parliamentary secretary for healthy living and seniors push her to “encourage British Columbians to take responsibility for their lives.”
Stilwell showed a video and spoke about her government’s focus on skills training, especially as it relates to the production and movement of liquid natural gas.
“We have so many jobs that are going to be opening up in the coming years,” she said. “Education should not be all about reading books.”
During the question and answer period, Stilwell was asked about jobs for B.C., and specifically what she thought about the many people who may live here but are away from their communities and families for weeks at a time at jobs in northern B.C. or Alberta.
“They are good jobs,” she said. “They are bringing that money back here, spending it here, buying homes here.”
• The Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce provided a $2,000 grant to Arrowsmith Search and Rescue, which will go toward the purchase of a new truck for the organization, which did 2,300 hours searching for, and rescuing, people in the region last year, plus 6,700 hours of training.