Children and family development minister visits Creston

Web Lead

  • Jul. 2, 2011 8:00 a.m.
Vancouver-False Creek MLA and Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil.

Vancouver-False Creek MLA and Children and Family Development Minister Mary McNeil.

Last year, Vancouver MLA Mary McNeil visited the Creston Public Library in her role as minister of citizen services. On June 22 she returned to Creston wearing a different political hat, that of minister of children and family development.

McNeil, who served eight years as president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation before entering provincial politics, has taken on a higher profile in new premier Christie Clark’s cabinet.

“Citizen services is the backbone of government and our communities,” said the Vancouver-False Creek MLA. “But taking on the Ministry of Children and Family Development is another step. When I was asked to take the position I said, ‘Oh, thanks, I think.’ ”

The complexity a ministry that is responsible for youth and families is obvious.

“We literally have thousands of kids that we as a ministry touch in some way every day — and they are the better for it,” McNeil said.

McNeil was in Creston to visit with the staff at the MCFD office on 10th Avenue North. She also made time to meet with administrators and employees of the Community Resource Centre, a local non-profit agency that provides services to her ministry by contract.

“I’m really just trying to get to know people and get a quick understanding of what front-line people are dealing with,” she said. “Today’s families are different than they were in the past and the face a lot of pressures — it’s a big challenge. We exist as a ministry because society has problems — there are all sorts of reasons why we have to be there for children and families.”

While the MCFD role is a challenging one, McNeil said her background is a factor in how she approaches her work.

“Being a mom, being a grandma, being from a large family — those experiences mean I’ve also had family members who have had problems,” she said.

Ministry employees and contractors deserve credit for the work they do, when too often the public only hears about the blame in media reports.

“These people make tough judgment calls every day and the public needs to know there is help available when our children and families face difficulties,” she said.

Part of McNeil’s mandate is to ensure different ministries communicate and co-operate for the benefit of the public.

“We now have offices where folks from different ministries are working together,” she said. “Staff from MCFD and other ministries, like education and health, are working together to make services work better. And we are always looking for ways to be more efficient.”

Success, she said, comes from ministries and community members working together.

“It’s all about partnerships — everything shouldn’t just fall to the government,” she said. “Every community has different issues and people in them can identify solutions.”

In her tour of the Kootenays and the upcoming one in Peace River country, McNeil said she had another mission in mind, too.

“I want to say thank you to people,” she said. “I understand they have difficult jobs and I want to build relationships so we can support them in their work. I want to tell people in this ministry that the work they do is important for British Columbia.”