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Sparwood student pushing for more road examiners

By Michelle Forbes

The East Kootenay is a beautiful area of Canada, with wide open spaces to explore, a beautiful place to live, which entices people to move here from far and wide.

But these wide open spaces are problematic for high school students in small towns across the region, particularly in the Elk Valley, as students try to get to work, to after school activities, or to events.

School busses only run once in the morning and once in the afternoon, unable to accommodate any deviations from regular school hours. This problem is compounded by only one ICBC road examiner for the East Kootenay. As students work to get their licenses, wait times for road exams can be several months, limiting students’ freedom and mobility.

Kurtis Chatterson, a Grade 11 student at Sparwood Secondary School, decided to do something to change the situation, which was causing huge problems for him and his friends.

“It’s affecting jobs,” Chatterson said. “It’s a necessity. It’s the people’s choice to change this.”

And he is working to make that change. After discussions with other students, Chatterson decided to raise awareness in the area, creating a petition that will be sent to the Victoria Legislature along with a testimonial letter detailing the issue and how it affects students in the area.

“If you compare Vancouver to Sparwood,” Chatterson said, “they have trains and busses and shuttles. We barely even have that here. We rely on our own vehicles. That’s the big problem in the valley.”

Chatterson contacted Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka, who encouraged him to continue working on the petition, and agreed to take the letter and petition to Victoria.

Chatterson will be holding a meeting June 4 at 6 p.m. at Sparwood Secondary School, where he hopes to make people more aware of this problem, with a paper copy of the petition for people to sign.

While Chatterson works on the petition, MLA Shypitka has been advocating for more examiners in the area for the last six or seven months with the government, after learning about the situation from a local driving school.

He says that it appears the situation will be rectified with the hiring of two new driver examiners in late June, but he is encouraging Chatterson to continue with his work.

“I will still present the petition to the Legislature, even though it appears that help is on the way. I feel that this petition represents more than merely an ask for more driver examiners, but it represents young adults being actively involved in the political process in a legal, responsible way. I would hate not to complete the process, albeit the solution seems to be addressed. The awareness that these students have brought forward to the driving examiner shortage is an important one, but it also shows that voices do matter and people should be more inclined to do something proactive instead of just complain,” Shypitka said.

He voiced his congratulations to Chatterson, the students, parents, and teachers, who have come together, and brought this issue his way. “This is what good governance should look like. I’m proud of the constituents in Kootenay East, and I will make every effort to work across political partisanship in order to do what is best for our beautiful corner of the province.”

With new driver examiners scheduled to start in the East Kootenay before summer vacation, it looks like those wide open spaces will become more accessible to high school students in the Elk Valley after all.

To attend the meeting and learn more about this issue, be sure to attend the Sparwood Secondary School on June 4 at 6 pm.

To sign the online petition, click here: Sign the Petition.

Lead image: Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka with Kurtis Chatterson. Photo submitted

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