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Abbott takes pulse of South Delta community
BC Liberal leadership hopeful George Abbott sat down with a group of community representatives Monday (Jan. 18) for his second appearance in South Delta.
The Shuswap MLA fielded questions from local citizens involved in areas such as health care, agriculture, non-profit organizations, business, the arts, and athletics at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn.
Last Monday, Abbott stopped in Ladner to meet with potential voters at the Delta Town & Country Inn, and later yesterday evening also dropped by Speed's Neighbourhood Pub.
At the round table discussion Monday, Delta Farmers' Institute president—and former B.C. Minister of Agriculture—John Savage spoke of the province's need to educate consumers about supporting B.C. agriculture.
Abbott agreed there's a need to restore some kind of "Buy B.C." branding to help educate consumers.
He has promised that if elected premier he would invest in "unlocking the potential of rural British Columbia." Part of that commitment includes $15 million a year for agriculture that would go toward—among other things noted under the BC Plan posted on his web site—a multi-year investment in agricultural branding and marketing to increase awareness of B.C. products; enhanced income support and business expansion programs in partnership with Ottawa through the Growing Forward program; ongoing provincial support for 4-H youth programs and local agriculture fairs; and emergency support programs for farmers through the federal-provincial AgriRecovery program.
A Delta Hospital medical director asked Abbott how local hospitals can be more involved with spending decisions made by health authorities.
"I think it is important that we recover a bit of that connection between the community, the hospital and the authority," Abbott said. "I do acknowledge that we lost a lot of that and in terms of how do we move forward in the future to build on that, I think it's ensuring that the health authority comes to Delta."
Ladner Sediment Group member Mike Owen, who has long pushed for the dredging of the Fraser River's secondary channels, told Abbott that if elected he needs to "push back at the bureaucracy and say, 'you have to make some changes.'"
Abbott acknowledged that the current situation with multiple players each having jurisdiction over the Fraser is "the greatest recipe for inertia one can ever imagine," adding there's a need for "some kind of effective collaborative process that actually gets some stuff done."
The B.C. Liberals have faced criticism in South Delta for a perceived lack of listening to voters when it comes to issues such as the South Fraser Perimeter Road. When asked in an interview after the event how he would try to rebuild the party's reputation in Delta, Abbott said caucus needs to work hard to connect with people in all regions of the province.
"One of the things I've told our caucus members we'll be doing is getting out on a regular basis to a different community in a different region of the province, and I think a trip by caucus to Delta would be a very important thing," he said.