The east wants in to the province

Lack of air quality monitoring station proves the point there’s an imbalance in the province

Do you remember the old federal Reform party, led by Preston Manning? I do. They were leaping into the grand national stage right around the time I was starting to pay attention to issues further than my backyard. I began to ask questions, to read the newspaper, to wade into the waters of politics and look through the murky depths to understand what it was all about.

The Reform party stuck out to me as a young Canadian because I loved the slogan, ‘The West Wants In’. It roused me in just the way a slogan should. While I was new to looking at politics, I understood clearly there was an imbalance in Canada. As a pre-teen, the idea of uniting the West into a unified voice struck me as brilliant and inspiring.

I grew up the East Kootenays. Now, as an adult, I feel the same slogan re-emerging in my life, only now the cry in my head is, ‘The east wants in’ to B.C. OK, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as Mr. Manning’s words, but the same idea applies. Sometimes, it feels like the further out we are from the provincial ‘centre’ of Victoria and the Lower Mainland, the more forgotten we are.

The smoke that hovered over the Columbia Valley this past summer was obviously not comfortable for locals suffering from breathing issues, as well as for the more vulnerable citizens in our community.

What is bothersome to me is there was no hard, statistical data about the air quality (see story, page 3). That is because the closest official Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) monitoring station is in Castlgar, more than four hours drive away from here. If you look at AQHI stations as you head towards the Lower Mainland, there is a healthy smattering of stations in that quadrant of the province: four alone are in Vancouver.

It illustrates the imbalance in many issues for southeastern B.C. Even our new premier never took the time to visit the East Kootenays on his provincial campaign tour prior to the May election. If we don’t merit a visit during a campaign when Mr. Horgan wanted our votes, I wouldn’t hold my breath we’ll get an air quality monitoring station any time soon when votes aren’t on the line.

In the meantime, if we see smoke in the East Kootenays, we’ll just have to hold our breath and hope for the best.

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