Thursday, February 26, 2015

MLA returns to Highway 16 transportation concerns during Wednesday Legislature session

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice continued to seek answers from Transportation Minister Todd Stone on Wednesday, following up her efforts of Tuesday, with two more questions related to Transportation issues on Highway 16.

In a pair of short exchanges during Wednesday's Question Period Ms. Rice returned to the theme of issues related to Highway 16 and the need for a shuttle bus along the Northern BC route.

Her first exchange with the Minister involved a review of the current status of Greyhound bus service along Highway 16, as well as observations on the list of unsolved cases of missing and murdered women in this one area of the province, with her first question originally directed to the Premier.

Clearly this minister doesn't know the details of this file. We've lost Greyhound bus service in the last 15 years. We've gone from 22 trips between Prince Rupert and Prince George down to 15. The train service is practically obsolete now that the Port of Prince Rupert has expanded. 

My question is for the Premier. Boy, she wouldn't believe what her ministers have been up to while she's been away. I want to remind the Premier that B.C. has the most unsolved cases of missing and murdered women in this country. More women have disappeared in British Columbia than any other province. It's wrong to suggest we should wait for more women to go missing before we take action. 

Again, to the Premier, will she commit today to bring in the bus service urged by the Missing Women Commission, yes or no?

The Transportation Minister took that question for the Premier, returning to the theme of government consultation with communities along the highway and pointed to some web based initiatives that the provincial government has taken to address the transportation issues.

That reply provided for a second opportunity for the North Coast MLA to weigh in on the topic. Her second question, was one that focused on the nature of  the website that his Ministry is trumpeting as a partial solution to the Transportation issues of Highway 16.

With Ms. Rice asking Minister Stone if Luxury Limousines, as highlighted on the website, are really a sensible recommendation for residents of the mostly rural area of the province.

The Missing Women Commission urged this government to bring in safe, affordable transportation for northern communities so that women wouldn't be forced to hitchhike to buy groceries or go to appointments. 

Instead, this government put together a website, or the web portal the minister just spoke of, that you'd never find unless you knew where to look. If you did find it, you know what's on there? A link to limousine companies. Does the minister really think that a website listing limousines is going to be of any use to the young women hitching on Highway 16?

In response to those observations, the Transportation Minister returned to some of his previous thoughts on the distance to be covered between Prince Rupert and Prince George and his impression that a shuttle bus is not a practical solution to the issue.

What's, I think, really important here is identifying practical solutions — solutions that, when implemented, will actually make a difference. That is why on the question of a shuttle bus type of service, I think it's important to acknowledge — and we certainly heard this in many of the discussions that were had when we were up there last summer — that the distance from Prince Rupert to Prince George is 718 kilometres. 

That's an eight-hour drive in good driving conditions. Putting a shuttle bus on that length of highway with that amount of hours of driving was not identified as a practical solution by the people who live up there. -- Transportation Minister Todd Stone on the issue of a Shuttle Bus along Highway 16.

A full review of the discussion in the Legislature can be found from the Hansard Record here.

The two key inquiries from MLA Rice appear between the 1420 and 1425  point of the record.

For more items related to developments in the Legislature see our archive page here.

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