Saturday, May 31, 2014

One final question from Jennifer Rice before the Legislature session ends

The topic of the need for a shuttle bus along Highway 16 made one more appearance at the British Columbia Legislature this week, with North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice taking one more opportunity to ask the Liberal government as to their progress on the issue that has been at the forefront of her time in Victoria.

As she outlined her latest question on the theme to the Minister of Justic during the Thursday morning Question period, Ms. Rice recounted that by her math, she had raised the concern to the Liberal government ten times previous during the recent sitting, without receiving what she believes was a satisfactory answer.

Commissioner Oppal said the need for a bus along the Highway of Tears is clear and the support for these services "is so broad and undisputed that no debate or further discussion is needed." I have asked the Justice Minister this straightforward question ten times this session, and every time she has side-stepped. 

The minister's refusal to simply answer the question is a disservice to every missing woman, to their friends, to their families and to the countless women who can be kept safe in the future if the bus services are in place along the Highway of Tears. 

To the Minister of Justice, for the 11th time this session and on behalf of the victims, their friends and their families, will she implement safe and affordable bus service along the Highway of Tears? Yes or no?

We suspect that the reply from Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton, which touched on many of the Liberals past talking points won't tide her over until the Legislature next meets.

Among the usual points of rebuttal on the topic from the Liberals, Ms. Anton once again recounted the current transportation options on the highway corridor, as well as steps taken to improve policing methods and communication options for those that travel through the region.

The Missing Women Commission of Inquiry went to the north in British Columbia and heard from people in the north. It heard about the need for safety on all of the northern highways, because there were tragedies for women in many northern highways. 

That is why the recommendation is for safer transportation options on northern highways in British Columbia. That's why. It has to be looked at from two sides of that question. One is how much transportation and what kind of transportation, and the second is: what about safety on the highways the rest of the time? Indeed, there is transportation on Highway 16. 

There is bus, and there is train…. There's a health bus for people who need appointments. 

But, more important, all the rest of the time…. That is why it is important to have safe highways. That's why there is a partnership with Telus to have increased cell phone coverage. Now 70 percent of that highway has cell phone coverage. 

That's why our police in British Columbia have better communications between themselves than any other police department in North America — because it is safety at all times on those roads which is important. 

It's unfortunate for Ms. Rice that the Legislature session came to an end before a pair of writers from the Globe and Mail had posted the latest examination of the issues of Highway 16.

On Friday, Globe writers Sunny Dhillon and Ian Bailey outlined a fairly damning overview of the work of the Liberals when it comes to the Highway 16 corridor and the concerns that have been raised about it over the last decade.

As part of that review, the Globe article offers a startling, if not alarming, statistical review as to the nature of unemployment and poverty from Prince Rupert through to Prince George from recent years. 

And while those numbers from 2011 may have improved slightly in recent years, the work by the Globe shows that participation rates still make for a troubling aspect of the Highway 16 story, one that impacts on social issues in many communities Northern BC.

The review highlights many of the frustrations for those that have yet to benefit from the talk of boom times and how those frustrations have yet to be addressed, leaving many disillusioned at the lack of progress on any of the issues.

For those that may have given the topic just a cursory glance in the past, the Globe story makes for a good place to rejoin the discussion on the issues.

You can read the full article here.

Such work, outlining the many themes of concern in Northern BC, would have made for a powerful addition into the debate inVictoria.

However, the Legislature is now adjourned until the fall and with that,  MLA's and Government Ministers are returning to their various home constituencies.

Leaving the Globe article, as useful as it may have been to the discussion, be featured more as a thing of blog postings, twitter retweets and email forwards, before it may be entered into the Legislature debate at some future date.

The short exchange between Ms. Rice and the Attorney General can be found on the Legislature Draft minutes from Thursday morning it runs from the 1100 mark to 1105 on the timeline.

You can review the video Archive from the House Question period for Thursday from the Legislature Archive page. The Question and answer session starts at the sixty minute mark of the video player timeline.

For more items of note from developments at the British Columbia Legislature see our archive page.

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