Annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon in Parksville

Thanks to SOS Chair Paul Ruffell, Executive Director Susana Newton and the board, staff and volunteers for inviting me to attend their annual volunteer luncheon in Parksville. My office works hard with SOS to help get seniors the benefits to which they are entitled. Susanna told us: "Since last June MP Gord Johns office and the SOS have helped seniors in need receive $130,000 in pension benefits owed to them." The society of Organized Services is a volunteer-based non-profit organization dedicated to meeting the needs and improving the lives of Oceanside residents. It was established in 1968 and its thrift shop draws thousands of customers from all over Vancouver Island and beyond each month. The revenues from the Shop along with community fundraising and government support flow to important community programs and services. Its more than 200 volunteers contribute their time and labour which would cost more than 1$ million annually if SOS was a for-profit enterprise. If you can volunteer for the success of our community, whether it's just one hour or several hours every week/month, give SOS a call at 250-248-2093 ext. 230 or email [email protected]. They would love to have you as a member of the family! 

National Day of Mourning in Port Alberni

Today, I was honoured to join workers gathered in Port Alberni in the territory of the Nuu-chah-nulth people to commemorate the National Day of Mourning and remember workers who have lost their lives, been injured or are living with physical or mental health disabilities due to work-related incidents. 

Tremendous progress has been made over many decades by the labour union movement in this province but there is much work still to do. There were 175 work-related deaths in our province in 2023 and we send our condolences to the families, loved ones and fellow workers of those who have been lost. More than half of these tragic deaths were due to occupational diseases including 48 caused by asbestos exposure, a disgrace in this era. 

In Port Alberni, the Pacific Coast University for Workplace Health Sciences continues to make progress towards supporting the return-to-work for workers injured on the job. Statistics show that only %1 of workers injured in the workplace return to work if they don't return to work within 12 months of being injured. This stat needs to change . I call on the federal government to continue its support for PCU-WHS.

Thanks to Ron Corbeil and United Steelworkers United Local 1-1937, BC Federation of Labour, the Business Council of British Columbia and WorkSafeBC for today's commemoration and, importantly, their call to action. Let us renew our commitment to stand with workers and redouble our efforts to ensure safe working conditions for all. Without workers, there is no care, no growth, no profit. We must do everything we an to ensure their safety.


Qualicum Beach Farmers Market

It felt good to be back at the wonderful Qualicum Beach Farmers Market on Saturday for last minute shopping before heading back to Ottawa. Now in its twenty-seventh year, this is one of many outstanding farmers market in Courtenay-Alberni and I try to make the rounds to each one each year. Please support our local growers and producers, it's important to our local economies and food security. Thanks to market manager Laurie Elves and president Cheryl Reist and the entire board and all the vendors who show up every Saturday Morning from 8:30am to noon to make this market happen. As they say: As the "Eat Fresh. Buy Local. Be Healthy." 

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 29 Mount Arrowsmith- Veterans appreciation luncheon

Thank you to the board, staff and volunteers of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 49 Mount Arrowsmith in Parksville for such a warm welcome to the veterans appreciation luncheon on Sunday. it was nice to visit with old friends and veterans like three-year past-president Don Levesque, his wife Gwen and their daughter Dawn along with many familiar faces from my years of visiting this outstanding Legion for ceremonies and celebrations. Don has served Canada in in Suez, East Germany, and Cypress and, in his words, has "done every job there is to do” for the Arrowsmith Branch. Thanks to all the veterans and currently serving members of the military for their kind words on Sunday. At the same time, I was reminded of the work that Parliament needs to do, including the repurposing of Crown lands for military housing and better access to mental health supports to tackle operational stress injuries faced by members. Also, the backlog in disability claims for veterans continues and yet there is nothing in last week’s federal budget to identify whether all temporary staff will be retained permanently to help finally address this issue. I will be raising this again during the budget debate.

Horne Lake Intersection long awaited Fuelling Fill-up station

Thanks to Qualicum First Nation Chief Michael Reclama, Council Members, and Kwalicum Crossing crew for inviting me to say a few words at the grand opening of their dream come true last week! The nation has opened its long awaited fueling fill-up station at the Horne Lake intersection along Highway 19 (700 Horne Lake Road). As I told the well-wishers and local dignitaries gathered for this historic occasion, don’t call it a “gas station”, it’s more than that, it’s an "energy station" with EV hook-ups, propane service and a convenience store and soon to be added is an A&W restaurant.

Next to the station is a pond and fountain that doubles as a beautiful water attraction and, importantly, a key water supply for the Bow Horn Bay Fire Department (BHBVFD). The BHBVFD fire chief Mark Taylor told PQB News reporter, Michael Brionnes: “The way they designed it, every bit of rain water that drops on the roof, falls on the pond over here. And this pond is specifically for us to fight fires.” The pond has 55,000 gallons of water the BHVFD will be able to access through a direct connection. "That’s going to take care pretty of much any fire that we have. It’s a fantastic design and we’re happy to have it here,” Chief Taylor told the News. Congratulations to QFN for combining a wonderful economic development opportunity with volunteer firefighting support to your neighboring communities. 

Repair Café in Qualicum Beach


Such great energy and community spirit at the Repair Café in Qualicum Beach on Saturday. The idea of repair cafes started in Amsterdam in 2009 and there are now more than 1,100 Cafés in 27 countries on six continents. It’s a free community event to which local residents bring damaged items from home to be repaired by volunteer “fixers”. Also, a chance to learn with like-minded folks who believe in reusing instead of discarding still-useful goods into the landfill. My favourite was 11-years old Alina who was repairing lamps with her assistant and Dad, Rob! If you missed the QB Café, the Cumberland Community Schools Society (CCSS) is hosting a Repair Café again this year at Cumberland Community School, Beaufort Gym on Saturday, April 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thanks to the many “fixers" who come together to make these Café happen in our communities.

Presenting the Governor General's Decoration for Bravery

It was an honour on Saturday to be asked to present the Governor General's Decoration for Bravery to Nick Rivers, a volunteer with Arrowsmith Search and Rescue for his role in saving the life of a man who fell into the frigid, fast-flowing waters of Little Qualicum River in 2020. The medal is awarded for "acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances". Nick said that he felt very privileged to be honoured to receive the medal but gave credit to his fellow SAR volunteers. “It was a total team effort”, he said as he received a standing ovation from the overflowing crowd at the Berwick theatre in Parksville. We are so fortunate to have an all-volunteer professional rescue organization trained and equipped for search and rescue on almost all terrain and in all weather conditions in our community. 

Brant Festival in Oceanside

Earlier this month, I was pleased to drop by to thank the many organizations in oceanside that are supporting this year's Brant Festival. They contribute to the Brant Festival which for the first year since its inception in 2007, is organized and facilitated by the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region. The festival connects the entire community with the spectacular migratory return of Brant Geese to our shores on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Great to touch base on my visit with representatives of North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, BC Parks Foundation, Hamilton Wetlands and Forest Preservation Society and local activist, student Teegan Walshe. 

Meet with Mayor of Port Alberni Ken McRae

It is always a pleasure to meet with four-time Mayor of Port Alberni, Ken McRae. I have never come away from our conversations without learning something new about the Alberni Valley. Ken was also a negotiator for the Canadian Paperworkers' Union for a decade and president of the Port Alberni and District Labour Council for five years. Thanks to the Honourable Josie Osborne for joining me. 

Breakfast Meeting with Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce President Terry

Thank you to Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce President Terry Deakin and Executive Director Jolleen Dick for inviting me to speak at its Breakfast Meeting last week. I started with a few words about success of the municipal and regional governments and the business community in attracting federal funding during my eight years in office as Member of Parliament. Federal investment during this period has been historic for the Alberni Valley as compared to the same period of Conservative representation prior to my election. Then, I invited questions from those in attendance. Most of the questions pertained to my work as the NDP critic for mental health and harm reduction and reflected concerns about the toxic drug overdose deaths in the community and the lack of accessible detoxification and treatment services. I continue to advocate for a health-based approach that is balanced with harm reduction services that will keep people alive combined with recovery programs for those who are ready for treatment and prevention and public education services that inform those who are vulnerable about the dangers.

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