Today in Question Period, I asked the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure about alternative transportation solutions for southern Vancouver Island.
S. Furstenau: In 2007, Stantec produced a report that identified a number of potential solutions to address the challenges presented by the Malahat. At the time, the Minister of Transportation declared: “Overall, the Malahat is performing well and can handle current capacity.” The government of the time chose to invest in safety upgrades to the highway. Since then, over $65 million has been spent on these upgrades. However, none of these safety upgrades can address the fundamental issue that on southern Vancouver Island, a region with a population approaching half a million people, there is a windy stretch of single-lane highway in which an accident can essentially sever access between the capital regional district and the rest of Vancouver Island.
There is no single magic bullet that will solve the problem that is the Malahat. But there has been one factor that’s been missing for far too long — the political will to truly tackle this issue.
My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Does this government have the political will to think beyond safety upgrades and move forward with solutions to southern Vancouver Island’s greatest transportation challenge?
Hon. C. Trevena: I’d like to thank the member for the question, and I understand, she, like tens of thousands of other people were caught in the traffic there. But first of all, I would like to wish those drivers who were injured in the accident a speedy recovery. We know that safety is the number one issue for any of our highways. So when people are injured, we obviously want to make sure that we are dealing with that.
The member is quite right. There is no single magic bullet. I have asked my staff to look again at the 2007 report on the bridge as a potential. But bearing in mind that is 11 years ago and there have been changes in not just the engineering and the technology that’s involved but looking at it through an environmental lens, through First Nations consultations, a First Nations lens, there is no single issue, no single way that we’ll be able to deal with the problems.
But this side of the House, this government, is committed to dealing with the traffic on the south Island — in fact, dealing with the Island as a whole. It was ignored for many, many years, as we all know. Our government is committed to making sure that it’s more than just safety measures but that we are looking at how we can move people around the south Island and through the Island as safely as possible.
Mr. Speaker: The House Leader, Third Party, on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: I appreciate the minister referring to the people that were injured in the crash. I also think about them, and I hope for the very best outcome in that.
A significant threat to good decision-making is when governments focus on the conditions of today rather than create the solutions for the future. Currently, a car is essentially necessary for movement between Cowichan, the CRD and Saanich, and yet we have an unused rail line, potential for increasing ferry capacity and the very limited commuter buses that could use an increase to frequency as well as flexibility and direction.
We do need to think about an alternate route for cars, but we also need to invest in alternatives to cars.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
S. Furstenau: I think, for the half-million people living on southern Vancouver Island, this is an important question. My question is again to the Minister of Transportation. Can she commit to producing a timeline for the implementation of alternative transportation solutions for southern Vancouver Island?
Hon. C. Trevena: Once again, I thank the member for her question. It’s right: these are very important issues for the many people who live and work in the southern part of Vancouver Island, as well as those travelling to the southern part of Vancouver Island and the many tourists that we get who are using our highways. People want to make sure that they can travel safely and efficiently.
We are working very…. We’re investing a record amount in B.C. Transit to look at how we can build up B.C.
Transit. We are looking at the E&N, as the member well knows. We’re looking at how we can ensure that people can travel safely and quickly from the Western Communities, which are some of Canada’s fastest-growing communities, using the E&N corridor and working with the Island Corridor Foundation about the rest of the rail line. So we are looking at many different ways of dealing with traffic congestion and the realities of today, looking to the future.
I agree completely with the member that we can’t just be building our way out of today’s problems. We’ve got to be looking to the future. That’s part of our job as legislators. We’ve got to be thinking of the next generation. I hope that our transportation vision will actually create a legacy for that next generation.