Tom Shypitka of the BC Liberals’ say his top priorities for Kootenay East and the Elk Valley for the current election are wildlife and land access management, healthcare access for Kootenay East residents and education.
Shypitka, who served at the MLA for Kootenay East in the previous parliament was nominated as the BC Liberals pick to re-contest the seat a second time.
“I got in to (politics) because I care about the region,” said Shypitka.
“When I was asked to take over the helm from Bill Bennett (in 2017) I jumped at the chance and got into it. Within the four years I’ve really fallen in love with the job. I love the people of Kootenay East and I really enjoy fighting for their concerns and I want to continue that.”
Shypitka explained that wildlife and land access management was his “number one priority,” citing decreases in populations of ungulates, land access conflicts and increased interest in the area. “We have really got to get this under control here.”
According to Shypitka the main problem was with funding for the sector.
“We are so far behind other jurisdictions such as Wyoming and Colorado and Montana and Idaho for that matter in funding that they make us look pretty sad.”
He said that his solution was to rustle up more funding for the sector by ensuring the money from tags and licences came back to the region and revenues through taxes on resources (such as coal) that could kick in over a certain commodity price.
“If we can all get together on it, we can protect our wildlife, enhance our land access and rebuild our habitat.
“We put a value on our timber, we put a value on our coal, we put a value on our oil and gas, but we don’t put a value on our wildlife, and I think that’s got to change, big time.”
Another big priority for Shypitka is access to healthcare – something he said residents in the Elk Valley and Kootenay East were getting the short end of the stick on due to being supposedly “shut out” of Alberta.
“In the last three or four years we’re seeing a real shutdown of our access to (Alberta) healthcare and that’s really troubling to the people of Kootenay East, because the alternative now is to go to Vancouver or Victoria and that’s not acceptable.
“There’s a lot of theories in why this access has been shut down, I’ve got a couple of firm beliefs on why it is, but government really hasn’t been able to help me at all clear the confusion on why we’re seeing this access being denied.”
The third big local issue was education.
Shypitka pointed to Isabella Dicken Elementary School as a priority, saying the number of portable classrooms wasn’t good enough for the community.
“Isabella Dicken has the unfortunate distinction of being the school in BC that has the highest amount of portables in it – eight. And now they just added another one. The NDP platformed on reducing portables, that was their big thing, but we’ve seen an increase in Kootenay East so I’d really like to get a handle on that.”
Shypitka also listed various BC Liberal campaign promises in senior care and taxation/revenue as a major focus.
On senior care, he said that with an aging population in the Elk Valley it was important that seniors could “stay in their homes longer and enjoy the comfort and support they’re accustomed to,” highlighting a $1 billion support plan announced by BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson.
On taxes, Shypitka took aim at the NDP’s record. “We’ve seen over 21 new or increased taxes by this NDP government, and yet nothing on the revenue side as far as business is concerned, in fact quite the opposite.”
He highlighted the provincial party promise to put the provincial services tax (PST) on hold for 12 months if elected, saying it would be fantastic for the bottom line of businesses struggling in COVID-times.
“I really believe the BC Liberals’ initiate to remove PST for a year is really going to restart our economy and get people back to feeling confident.”
Shypitka will go up against the NDP’s Wayne Stetski and the BC Green’s Kerri Wall in the upcoming election to be held on Oct. 24.
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