Tuesday, November 18, 2014

MLA takes need for Highway 16 bus improvements back to the Legislature

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice returned to one of her more familiar themes in the Legislature on Monday, once again making her case for improvements to transportation options along Highway 16.

Taking advantage of the Monday Morning portion of the Legislative day allocated for Private Members Statements, Ms. Rice reviewed many of the points covered in her previous discussions on the topic of transportation issues in the region.

Highlighting her concern over the lack of progress on the suggestion of recent months of a shuttle bus  option between communities on the lengthy stretches of highway between Prince Rupert and Prince George.

The Minister of Transportation has suggested a shuttle bus for the Highway of Tears is a simplistic solution to transportation challenges in the north. But until this government is prepared to take leadership and make some major social investments, so-called simple solutions, such as a shuttle bus service, should be implemented. There are many factors that need addressing to make the Highway of Tears safer. This includes examining economic, health and social factors, including the history of residential schools and systemic inequality that impacts the area. ... .

It includes creating and implementing a poverty reduction plan, which this government is simply not interested in doing. Until such time as the prevailing factor of poverty is addressed, a shuttle bus or a series of buses serving rural and remote communities along the Highway of Tears is not a bad idea. As the mayor of Smithers recently said, it's inexpensive, and it's doable. I stand here today to argue that knowing this, we should do it.

As part of her review for the Legislature of Monday, the MLA outlined the situation with the current models of transportation available, with Greyhound service reduced in recent years and traffic on the CN main line between Prince Rupert and Prince George making rail options by way of VIA Rail less than a reliable option.

The Greyhound bus service — which was dramatically cut along Highway 16 by this government's approval in early 2013 — is worse now, down to 14 from 22 trips a week.   

The Minister of Justice has mentioned the option of the train, which is laughable. The train — which no longer serves the needs of the passengers along Highway 16 corridor, let alone reaches any outlying First Nations communities — is impossible to use. Increased freight through the Port of Prince Rupert has essentially made passenger service secondary and completely unreliable with major delays, meaning the passenger train spends hours sitting on sidings as container ship traffic takes priority and passes by. 

Freight trumps people in the rail industry, and hence, the train is losing its appeal to tourists and locals alike. Like Greyhound, no doubt we will also hear announcements of passenger rail service reductions in the future. 

While addressing the Legislature with her statement of concern on the situation, the MLA wrapped up her commentary with a question for the Premier, calling attention to her comments of the summer regarding her pledge to end violence against aboriginal women and girls.

Asking the question: What is the Premier doing to end this violence?

Statements from Private Members don't receive replies as other aspects of the Legislature Day might allow. Rather, they provide opportunity for MLA's  the opportunity to raise issues of concern to them.

You can review the Monday morning review from MLA Rice from the Legislature Chamber Video Link for Monday Morning, her comments start at 10:35 AM.

The transcript of the Statements from Members can be found here, Ms. Rice's contribution starts at the 10:35 mark

You can review more of the work of the North Coast MLA in the Legislature from our archive page.

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