Age is only a number, and despite turning 65 this year, Eric Foster isn’t anywhere near ready to throw in the political towel.
“I’m still enjoying it,” said the two-term Vernon-Monashee MLA. “I’m not thinking about retirement at all.”
The former school teacher and municipal politician, has championed many causes for the region, and isn’t finished yet.
“We’ve had a pretty good go here the last few years with new highways, hospitals and new schools,” said Foster, who is the government whip and more recently a grandfather.
And as he awaits completion of the top two floors of Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Polson Tower, there is another cause he is ready to champion. Only this one is within the system.
“We have a lot of issues in health care and social services,” said Foster. “The service is fractured.”
Instead of working together to benefit patients, privacy laws keep the two departments separate, says Foster, causing not only a duplicity of work, but frustration among all.
“We’re re-inventing the wheel every time a child goes from one service to another,” said Foster, adding that staff want to work together.
“We can fix it because the professionals want to fix it.”
But Foster admits, it won’t be easy trying to deal with privacy laws.
“It’s very important and it’s time consuming but somebody has to champion it.”
He has already spoken with the privacy commissioner about the issue, which has caused a number of unfortunate scenarios, including death.
“Of all the challenges I’ve seen in the past five-and-a-half years in office, that’s probably the biggest one.”
Affordable housing is another issue Foster would like to address, on a local level.
“Housing here is too expensive,” said the Lumby resident of 31 years who doesn’t believe in living beyond your means.
“There is an opportunity here if we can free some money up to build some more housing.”
Although the free market is not one he will ever interfere with, Foster says housing prices are disproportional to the wages here.
However, dropping gas prices means residents have a few extra dollars in their pockets, which he likes to see.
“The money is a lot better in your pocket than in the provincial coffers because you’re going to spend it and we get it back anyway,” he said, as the government collects the same amount of carbon tax no matter the price (it is levied on a volume basis).
He expects a drop in diesel prices has to follow suit, which should result in lower prices at the grocery store.
Meanwhile, the drop has delayed decisions on B.C. LNG.
“They’re sitting on their hands a bit because they’re concerned about the price of oil.”
There could also be impacts in the Alberta oil patch, where a number of local residents work, if operations tighten up.
But lucky for B.C., gas isn’t the only industry it has.
“The forestry industry is picking up, it’s way up right now,” said Foster, who has also been stuck between a rock and a hard place with the controversy in Cherryville with BC Timber Sales.
Foster is looking forward to working with some new and many familiar faces following civic elections, including Vernon’s new mayor Akbal Mund, whom he has worked with in different capacities.
“I think Akbal’s going to do a great job,” said Foster. “He’s got a lot of skills and he’s got a lot to learn, he’ll tell you that.”