Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell is new to the political scene, but she already has an important role to play.
Premier Christy Clark unveiled her new cabinet Friday and Stilwell has been named parliamentary secretary to the minister of health for healthy living, one of 14 MLAs named as parliamentary secretaries.
She will use her experience as a high-performance athlete to work with medical professionals and make recommendations to the minister on how government can support healthy living and preventative health measures to keep B.C. residents healthy and out of hospital.
“It’s a wonderful fit for me,” said Stilwell, a Paralympic champion in track and basketball events in 2000, 2008 and most recently at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. “I just feel honoured and privileged that I’ve been given this opportunity.”
In her new role, she plans to focus on two key areas.
The first is getting children and youth more active and encouraging them to make better lifestyle choices, such as steering away from fast foods and processed foods.
“Finding those passions that allow them to want to be healthy and active, getting them engaged in the process,” said Stilwell, adding that modern technology has led to more time in front of screens for youth.
She also plans to focus on how to encourage activity and healthy living among seniors and how to enable this segment of the population to live longer and happier at home.
“Part of that is growing community and creating bonds in communities so seniors have those networks in time of need,” said Stilwell.
Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog said he’s delighted to see government taking the issue of personal health and healthy living seriously, but he is skeptical the talk and the appointment will be followed up with action.
He said the government has also announced a “core review,” intended to identify savings and efficiencies, which usually means cuts – not expansion of programs.
“It’s a good concept, but will there be anything to follow from any recommendations she might make?” said Krog. “I guess at this point, it’s a wait-and-see attitude.”