Doug Routley our MLA and Claire Trevena the NDP Transportation Critic coordinated this meeting with two Assistant Deputy Ministers and Chris Bowers and Steve O’Neill representing BFSS.
We met with Doug briefly before the meeting and then attended the meeting with Kevin Richter, Assistant Deputy Minister of Highways and Deborah Bowman, Assistant Deputy Minister of Transportation Policy and Programs along with Doug and Claire.
Initially the meeting was scheduled for ½ hour, but it continued on for almost an hour. Both Doug and Claire eloquently addressed the issues surrounding the “feasibility study” and expressed the concerns that they had regarding the way the study had been initiated and the reasons for initiating the study in the first place. They also asked when the study might be released and in what format.
Chris and Steve also presented the concerns of the BFSS and expressed strong feelings that the feasibility study was seen as an attempt by the Minister to deflect attention away from the UBCM study that identified the negative economic impacts resulting from the changes to the BC Ferry system, and the increases in fares and decreases in service that ferry-dependent communities are facing. We also expressed our concerns regarding the very expedient manner in which the Minister had responded to the request signed by 609 islanders for a study, and how the consequent presentation of the BFSS petition in the Legislative Assembly had received no response from the Minister, although there were 2 ½ times as many signatures from Gabriolans and Mudge Islanders as on the original request to the Minister.
Mr. Richter explained the process involved in a feasibility study and confirmed that it was not yet complete. He indicated that the results of the study would likely be released in August. Although Richter said community consultation would take place before making any decision regarding building bridges to Mudge and Gabriola, he stressed that it was premature to discuss this process before the findings of the study were released.
Mr. Richter confirmed that he would ensure that the Minister would be apprised of our concerns and of the very strong feelings we expresse regarding the entire process – how even the instigation of the study flies in the face of the established Islands Trust’s clear policy statement on no fixed links.
We also provided Mr. Richter a letter of support from the Gulf Islands Alliance and a reiteration of the very clear policy position and statement of support from the Local Islands Trust Committee.