The BC Green Party has nominated Fernie local Kerri Wall to contest the riding of Kootenay East in the upcoming provincial election.
Wall, who has lived in Fernie since 2008, is taking a leave of absence from her job working with Interior Health with the Healthy Communities Program.
Wall said her experience through that program made her an ideal candidate for MLA.
“The kind of things we’re trying to promote and help encourage in local government settings and communities … a lot of those levers are actually at higher levels of government. So as much as I’m doing my job trying to create healthy communities, I’ve been feeling more and more like I can do more if I was at a different level of government.”
Wall said that her priorities in the election campaign would be mental health and addictions, which she said was the number one chronic issue in the Elk Valley and Kootenay East.
“People here actually make above average income compared to the provincial average – things are pretty good here, but we do have chronic health issues (and) those policy levers are at a provincial level.”
Wall explained that many of the solutions revolved around the allocation of more resources to regional health authorities and communities.
“There can be changes made around a safe supply of opioids, decriminalizing these things would go a long way towards reducing the stigma and helping people get the services they need.”
On issues such as housing affordability as well as the community relationship with mining and the environment, Wall took a big-picture approach.
“In my job we work on what we call the social determinants of health. So that’s what are the things in society that make us healthy. We need access to doctors and hospitals. But really social determinants are all about income, because we need jobs, we need education – which we have to pay for – we need secure housing which costs a lot of money.
“We’ve got a world where for people to be healthy we don’t just need doctors in hospitals, they actually need quite a lot of money to set themselves up to be healthy,” she said.
“So we’ve got Teck, we’ve got the mines, they’re employing people. They’re serving a lot of us very well in that manner. People make a good living working at the mines. However, coal mining is unsustainable in the long term, and the high cost of housing is unsustainable in the long-term and these things need to be approached universally.”
Wall said that as long as people are focused on housing and money, society won’t be able to deal with the climate crisis or sustainability.
“We will always put the priorities of our own well-being and our children and our families first,” she said, hence the need to deal with housing, income inequality and environmental concerns together.
On Teck and the relationship of the mines with the communities that work in them and the surrounding environment, Wall said the government needed to play a larger role in tempering large companies objectives of simply making money.
“Government is put in this position where they’re meant to police that, and use legislation to temper that. I think we could use legislation to temper that drive more.
“Of course we need people to make money, we need it. And I think we’re going to need steel-making coal for a long time. But we need to figure out how to do it in a way where the prosperity is shared not just amongst people, but the plants, the animals, the rivers, the forest. If it’s our prosperity to the detriment of the land, that comes back and hurts us very quickly. We may think in our lifetime we’ll be fine, but that’s very short-sighted.”
When it comes to the trials facing the tourism industry in the Elk Valley and Kootenay East due to the pandemic, Wall said that again, a bigger-picture solution like a guaranteed income was required to soothe the pain of the pandemic and necessary public health guidelines.
“(The BC Greens) really believe in the idea of income supports. People shouldn’t be left behind in an economic recovery,” she said.
Wall explained that her idea of supporting the industry was to support individuals and not the businesses themselves.
“When the tourism operators say ‘what’re we going to do?’ I think, ‘what are we all going to do?’ Some people are going to be okay. And the people that are going to be okay might have to consider that they don’t have much to lose. It’s about income inequality to me.”
Kerri Wall is one of three currently known candidates contesting the riding of Kootenay East in the upcoming election to be held on Oct. 24. Wall will go up against incumbent BC Liberal candidate Tom Shypitka, and the NDP candidate Wayne Stetski.
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