In his report, released on Tuesday, Auditor General Michael Pickup explored some of the progress that has been made on transportation themes in the north, but also observed to the ongoing challenges facing residents from Prince Rupert to Prince George and points North and south.
"Northern B.C. is an area larger than the entire country of France and the bus is a lifeline for many residents in places like Prince George, Prince Rupert, Fort Nelson, and Valemount. People depend on the bus to get to jobs in other communities, access essential services like health care, go to school, or visit family and friends.
The ministry has made progress in its planning but needs to make clear how its province-wide plan will support northern B.C. specifically, Northern regions have particular transportation needs – the distances are vast, roads can be treacherous, and alternatives are few.
People's livelihoods are on the line. I hope the ministry will consult with northern residents to ensure that the plan meets the unique needs of the region."
The report which is titled Ensuring Long-distance ground transportation in Northern BC, explored a range of themes that have developed since Greyhound Canada ended its service to the region, highlighting the areas that need immediate attention and those that are in the scope of some much long term planning.
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The Auditor General also provides a few starter questions for British Columbians to bring up with their local MLA or Cabinet Ministers should the opportunity arise.
The ministry broadened the scope of its planning work to include ground transportation for the whole province in 2020. Planning documents from that time show the working goal was to have “a provincial intercity bus network along major provincial corridors.” Since then, the ministry has assessed the current state of subsidized ground transportation in B.C. and conducted a transportation needs assessment for rural, remote and Indigenous communities across the province (see text box).
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There is a risk that – without an approach for northern B.C. – the broader work on ground transportation across the province may not lead to a sustainable solution in the north.
Ensure that the plan for provincewide ground transportation includes options for sustainable solutions in northern B.C.