Bridge-Free Salish Sea

Letter to Todd Stone (dated June 15, 2015)

Dear Mr. Stone:

Although the Legislative Assembly is not sitting and may not sit again this fall, we wanted to ensure that you remain aware and informed regarding our petition to oppose any fixed link to any of the Gulf Islands. In particular, we want you to be aware that there is a very active and determined group of individuals and organizations on Gabriola and Mudge Islands who continue to oppose even the idea of a bridge to link Mudge and Gabriola to Vancouver Island.

During the spring sitting of the Legislature, when questioned by MLA Claire Trevena regarding the timing and intent of the feasibility study contracted by your ministry, you replied: “I just wanted to highlight, again, that the intent here is to do a feasibility analysis. Nothing is going to be imposed on the people of Gabriola Island. What we want to do here is based on the fact that we received a tremendous amount of requests from people on Gabriola Island to at least understand what it would cost.”

You also stated that: “As I said a moment ago, there will be no forcing upon the people of Gabriola Island a fixed link, if that is not what the folks of the island want.”

Mr. Stone, we have number of concerns having read your responses to Ms. Trevena. You stated that you received “a tremendous amount of requests from people on Gabriola…” In fact, 609 people signed a petition requesting the study and that petition was sent directly to your office. In very short order your ministry allocated $200,000.00 for this feasibility study, with no regard for the position of the Islands Trust in this matter.

Subsequently, a petition to the Legislative Assembly supporting the position of the Islands Trust to allow no fixed links to any of the Gulf Islands was signed by 2109 British Columbians, of which 1641 were residents of Mudge and Gabriola Islands. Rather than address this petition directly to your office, we determined that the most democratic approach was to follow your own government’s guidelines regarding petitions and have the petition presented in the Legislative Assembly by our MLA and the NDP Transportation Critic in order to open the floor to further debate and discussion regarding this issue. To date, we have received no response from you regarding this 2109 person petition.

On May 14, 2015, we attended a meeting requested by MLA Doug Routley with two of your ministry’s Assistant Deputy Ministers. We understood that the goal of the meeting was to clarify the intent and timing of the feasibility study. I am attaching our synopsis of that meeting to this letter.

Mr. Stone, we believe that if you and your ministry officials had actually communicated with those of us who live on these two islands, you would have quickly found that the majority are clearly against the very idea of a bridge. In effect, we could have saved your ministry – and the citizens and taxpayers of BC – $200,000.00 and your government would have been seen as consulting on this issue rather than simply responding to a petition likely generated by frustration at the failure of the Coastal Ferry Act to provide reliable service at reasonable rates to ferry dependent communities.

I assume you are familiar with the survey commissioned by BC Ferries in 2009 which confirmed that the majority of Gabriolans and Mudge Islanders were strongly opposed to a bridge. I have attached a copy of the results of the study as published in the Island Tides for you perusal.

Mr. Stone we are concerned that your ministry intends to release the results of this feasibility study in mid-August when the Legislature is not sitting and most British Columbians are not particularly focused on the deliverables of government contracts.

We want to assure you that we, along with more than 2100 British Columbians, our MLAs and MPs will be watching this process closely and we will work diligently to ensure that residents of all the Gulf Islands – including the Islands Trust, the Gulf Islands Alliance, the UBCM and other potentially impacted groups and organizations – will be made aware of the results of this expensive feasibility study in a timely manner.

Should you wish to contact or meet with us at any time, please feel free to contact the undersigned.

Respectfully,

Stephen O’Neill

On behalf of Bridge Free Salish Sea

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