Shocker unveiled: Government doesn’t understand rural realities

OBAC looks at ways to address government disconnect with rural communities.

If you have ever sat waiting on hold for ages trying to access government services, or struggled for hours over government service forms, you are not alone.

But you already knew that.

The real news is now at least government may become more aware of these and other issues, at least if the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition (OBAC) has anything to say about it.

This was the message brought with the presentation of a study of the coordination of social services in the Omineca region.

The study was initiated by the OBAC, an organization formed in 2005 to look at economic diversification and long-term sustainability in the region after the massive pine beetle epidemic, which could potentially jeopardize the economies of many communities still dependent on the forestry sector for jobs and revenue.

One of the objectives set out when OBAC was formed was by 2025 to “be known as a model region for delivery of quality, equitable, coordinated, relevant and cost-effective services to small and rural communities.”

Sarah Cunningham, the consultant who did the study for OBAC, has been travelling throughout the region from Smithers to Valemount to present the study’s findings and potential strategies and actions going forward and was in Fort St. James on Jan. 31.

In a one-hour presentation at the College of New Caledonia (CNC) last week, Cunningham breathlessly attempted to hit the highlights of the extensive study which summarized the findings she gathered through region-wide interviews on social service coordination.

Cunningham said the tour is an attempt to validate the findings of the research and get feedback to help improve the findings and further refine the draft plan.

However, Cunningham did admit so far there has been a lack of meaningful engagement with the First Nations in the region for the project, with the municipalities and regional districts being the primary sources of input, and not a lot from First Nations.

“That hasn’t really happened and that’s where the future is, for sure,” said Cunningham.

But so far, what has come out of the research is community service providers are not able to connect effectively to the public (ie. government) service providers, and overall coordination is inadequate, which can limit the effectiveness of the community services.

“Coordination is actually fundamental to service provision,” said Cunningham.

The study found evidence people experience limited or no access to a wide range of needed programs and services, online or call centre government services can be very difficult for people to access, and government funding programs are sometimes inaccessible, with often highly restrictive funding criteria, little local control over resources and the tendency for government to be focussed on their internal processes at the expense of supporting or working with contracted agencies.

Those internal processes can be very difficult to overcome in relation to rural communities, and there is little recognition within government of rural realities, including geography and infrastructure, according to the research.

Cunningham was looking for some validation of the study’s findings from those in attendance to give OBAC a mandate to take her findings to the government and lobby for potential changes to address these disconnects and others.

Those attending the Fort St. James session seemed focused on resource sharing in resource-rich rural areas.

“We’re expected to maintain all of those things – but a fair share has to come back into the community,” said Councillor Joan Burdeniuk. For more information, go to: http://www.ominecacoalition.ca

Just Posted

Manipulating water temperatures in the Nechako River

The objective is to protect migrating sockeye salmon

POLICE REPORT: Inexperienced winter drivers rear-end logging truck, YRB snowplow

Vanderhoof RCMP receive seven motor vehicle incident calls in first few days of snow

SD#91 iCubed tech and entrepreneurship youth summit a first for Northern B.C.

Students explore real world applications of entrepreneurial thinking

Fraser Lake honours service men, women and dogs

Canine Legion member “Sarge” places wreath at the Village Cenotaph

VIDEO: Government approves funding of $750,000 drug for B.C. woman

Approval comes one day after province announces funding for Soliris on a case-by-case basis

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

B.C. family advocating for drug decriminalization following death of son

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has noted the New Democrats would decriminalize personal possession of all drugs

Winning Lotto 6/49 purchased in Kelowna

Some lucky man or woman purchased a winning 6/49 ticket in Kelowna.

Public against wildfire monument in Kamloops

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District announced the monument to commemorate volunteers’ efforts

Charge laid against B.C. man in alleged cat torture

Joshua Michael Lemire, 20, has been charged with one count of causing unnecessary pain/suffering to an animal.

Oxford Dictionary responds by video to Victoria boy’s bid for levidrome

William Shatner tweet garners attention of Oxford

Site C allows more wind, solar energy, experts say

Lawyer, economist argue for completion of B.C. Hydro dam

Record-high temperatures reached in 18 spots in B.C.

White Rock, Victoria and the Fraser Valley made new records for the unusually warm November day

Supreme Court to hear case on whether ISPs can charge for IDing online pirates

Film producers seeking to crack down on people who share copyrighted material illegally

Most Read