Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Can the Minister of Justice explain who they have been meeting with?"

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice turned up the heat on Justice Minister Suzanne Anton on Tuesday morning, speaking during the morning House Session, Ms. Rice returned to the theme of the Highway of Tears shuttle bus.

Calling attention to some recent comments from Mayor Jack Mussallem and Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council among others across Northern British Columbia, all of whom recounted that on the topic of the shuttle bus, they have not been contacted by the Provincial Government.

Her comments and question for the Justice Minister came as part of the Oral Questions portion of the morning session.

Yesterday I asked the Minister of Justice why the Transportation Minister said, "there have been a tremendous number of discussions and meetings that have been held" about a shuttle bus along the Highway of Tears. 

I asked because the mayor of Prince Rupert said: "I don't know who they've been talking to, but they haven't been talking to the mayor of Prince Rupert." I asked because Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier-Sekani Tribal Council and the Bulkley-Nechako regional district chair also said they have not been approached by the B.C. Liberals. 

Ditto with the elected officials in Terrace, Smithers, Vanderhoof, Houston, Fraser Lake and Telkwa. 

If the B.C. Liberals haven't been meeting with First Nations leaders and mayors about the shuttle bus, can the Minister of Justice explain who they have been meeting with?

For her part, the Justice Minister returned to what appears to be the Liberal government's default position of late on the topic. Providing a review of the government's steps thus far, though she did not address the issue of the shuttle bus in her review.

The commission of inquiry into the missing women identified the need for safer transportation options along Highway 16 and all northern highways, with an emphasis on safety, and that's why there need to be two different ways of approaching this. 

One is through the transportation services, and the other is through other safety features along the highway, and government has been working on both of those. We invest $4½ million annually in public transportation options. That includes the Northern Health Bus, which takes people to medical appointments and which apparently was something that they did not know about — the members opposite — when they were up there. That is a very important service. 

There are local transportation services run by B.C. Transit, which are available to other communities when they wish to partner with B.C. Transit. But more important than that…. We are addressing safety for citizens along the highway. 

That is why the Carrier-Sekani were given a grant of $100,000 to conduct public safety workshops along the highway. That was one of the groups that was just identified. That is why we have invested $7 million with Telus on improved cell phone coverage, and that is why policing has been so significantly improved on all highways in British Columbia and, in particular, on northern highways.

The shuttle bus issue came back to the front of the news cycle this week, after a widely distributed article from the Canadian Press provided a review of the topic and highlighted the lack of progress or information on the theme.

As we outlined on the blog earlier this week, Prince Rupert Mayor Jack Mussallem was interviewed as part of the article, providing the comments that Ms. Rice relayed to the Legislature on Tuesday morning.

The short exchange in the Legislature can be found at the 1050 mark on the timeline of Legislature Blues.

As well a video review of the discussion of Tuesday morning is available on the Legislature House Video Archive, it begins at the 50 minute mark on the video archive timeline

You can find more on developments at the Legislature on our Archive page.

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