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Children’s minister impressed by collaboration

Mary McNeil, B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development, talking with local media. - Submitted
Mary McNeil, B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development, talking with local media.
— image credit: Submitted

She came, saw and was impressed. Mary McNeil, B.C. Minister of Children and Family Development, visited the Kootenay region last week to meet with community stakeholders and get a picture how services are being delivered in the area.

Being in a remote part of the province with a large area and spread-out population, McNeil said, has fostered an atmosphere of stronger collaboration and cooperation between the various services.

“In the Lower Mainland, it’s easy to get into your specialty and stay in your specialty,” she stated. Here in the Kootenays, agents working in the various areas, from special needs to mental health and child protection, work together closely for the benefit of the families needing the service.

McNeil had a chance to meet with ministry staff in Cranbrook as well as service providers in Creston and Fernie. She also visited with representatives of Ktunaxa children and families’ programs and got a tour of the site for the new Kootenay Child Health and Development Centre.

McNeil said she has been aware of the project to build the centre for a while and is looking forward to more discussions to see how partnerships can be established to complete the centre. “If there is a more efficient way of doing things, it has to happen,” she stated.

One of the challenges for the provincial government, she pointed out, was to recognize its fiscal responsibilities, especially in tough economic times. While Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett also recognized the goal has to be to look at innovative ways of financing, he hoped the Province would at one point be able to kick in some money.

“I want to see the Child Health and Development Centre developed here in the Kootenays,” Bennett confirmed. Similar centres have been established in other areas of B.C. and Bennett explained they offer a way for families to access the various services for their children in one place.

In addition to being the minister, Mary McNeil also chairs the cabinet committee on ‘Families First’. The goal behind the phrase that has been coined by Premier Christy Clark during her campaign is to look at every policy and piece of legislation through the lens of B.C. families.

“It’s the right lens for  right now,” said Bennett and both politicians agreed that there still needs to be a focus on investment, job creation and a strong economy to give families a chance to be successful. “The premier feels that families do come first,” McNeil summed it up, “but that’s not to say that they don’t need jobs.”

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