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COLUMN: One very busy summer in Vernon-Monashee

MLA Harwinder Sandhu spent the summer meeting more constituents and putting in long hours
Attending and celebrating Vernon’s first Pride Week was part of a very busy summer for Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu (centre). (Morning Star - file photo)

For many, summer is a time for vacations, staycations and relaxation, but for me, it is a chance to meet more of my constituents, hear their ideas, and put in long hours working to make life better. Getting to share in exciting announcements that my team and I have worked hard for is one of the highlights of being an MLA.

Over the past few months, I have facilitated round table discussions with agricultural industry leaders, internationally trained nurses, non-profits, childcare providers, local businesses, stakeholders, local leaders and more. We have also welcomed government officials and ministers from across B.C. both to showcase the work happening here in Vernon, and to advocate for our community’s needs.

I have been working hard to improve the services that you rely on and make life more affordable. In July, we announced 22 local organizations that collectively received over $900,000 in community gaming grant funds. These funds help operate programs that support the health and well-being across Vernon-Monashee, like the Vernon Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which received $84,000. In May, we announced that five rural communities around Vernon were connected to high-speed internet, opening up more opportunities for education, business and staying connected. And this summer, local governments in Vernon and the surrounding area received more than $125,000 for emergency preparedness operations throughout the area, to keep people safe.

In June, we announced 100 new housing spaces for Okanagan College students will be built in Vernon, the first investment in Okanagan student housing in 30 years! There will be 44 child-care spaces built at the local campus, which will remove child-care barriers for many parents, in order for them to continue their education. Since January, we have started work on 115 units of affordable housing for people in Vernon, in addition to more than 200 hundred units of housing that have been announced since 2020.

Since 2018, when the B.C. government launched the childcare plan, 736 new licensed spaces have been funded here, and there are over 400 childcare spaces that are now only $10 a day. This means more than $9 million has gone back into the pockets of parents in Vernon-Monashee through reduced fees and benefits.

But this is only a start. Our government has expanded mental health services, opened more early childhood education student opportunities, and supported community organizations with thousands of dollars in grants to support programs, arts events and summer festivals. We have built new playgrounds, opened 90 new long-term care beds for seniors, and invested over $1 million in tourism infrastructure projects in Vernon and Coldstream.

We have recruited and hired specialized teams to support addiction recovery and launched new services and support systems for vulnerable people struggling with mental health.

Our government also provided nearly $30 million in support as part of the Fairs, Festivals and Events Recovery grants. These funds went to eligible event organizers across the province, to support their efforts to resume events and fairs safely. There were many local recipients, including Armstrong’s IPE, Greater Vernon 2022 (now 2023) BC Winter Games, Okanagan Military Tattoo, Lumby Days and many more! It has been so wonderful to see people enjoying these events after the pandemic.

Our government is investing in the programs and services that make life better for people. We’ve made a great start, and I know there is more work to do. I’m proud to be your MLA and to continue fighting for you.

Harwinder Sandhu is the MLA for Vernon-Monashee

About the Author: Vernon Morning Star Staff

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