Well, I guess politics always pervades these issues and might as well throw one into the ringer. Apparently NDP leader James came out against the Gateway Program and specifically the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge at her speech at the UBCM today. In fact, she utilized the term dumb and dumber
to describe the Gateway Program.
After almost three years since the Gateway Program was announced, she has taken the same position as the Greens. Problem is, the Pitt River Bridge/Interchange stand-alone component of the NFPR is already under construction.
B.C. New Democrat leader says she's against massive Gateway plan
VANCOUVER - New Democrat Leader Carole James says she's against the B.C. government's massive Gateway plan to improve traffic congestion because it won't be finished for another eight years and people sitting in traffic gridlock need solutions now.
James told a convention of the Union of B.C. Municipalities on Thursday that the Liberal government needs to provide more buses and SkyTrain cars and increase transit routes to serve the province's fastest-growing communities.
Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said he's been waiting for two years for James to take a position on the Gateway project, adding James will "rue the day she made the decision."
James later told reporters that while the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge may be needed across the Fraser River some day, investing in transit is the right way to help fed up commuters who sit in traffic for too long.
James made it clear Thursday that the government's solution to easy traffic congestion is too far off.
Falcon said the NDP government of the 1990's made the empty promise to twin the Port Mann bridge.
"Now that she's in this position, she's now arguing directly contrary to the position that her government took."
He noted that the twinning of the bridge will allow busses to jump past the traffic.
James also called on Premier Gordon Campbell to immediately fund the Evergreen light-rail transit line to Coquitlam and start planning a new transit line up the Fraser Valley.
Campbell is slated to speak to delegates at the convention on Friday.
He announced the $3-billion Gateway transportation plan in January 2006.
It would include a new Pitt River Bridge and the twinning of the Port Mann Bridge, along with a new South Fraser bypass route from Deltaport to Highway 1 in Surrey.
The plan also calls for a North Fraser road from Maple Ridge to New Westminster and a further widening of the Trans-Canada Highway from Vancouver to Langley.
Falcon said that the population of Metro Vancouver is expected to grow by one million people in the next two decades.
"To think that we can get by with a bridge that was built in 1963 and not do anything to even think about how we're going to provide transit options...I think it's very short sighted and I really believe she'll pay a big price with the public for getting on the wrong side of this issue. "
New Democrat MLAs from the B.C. Interior have also voiced concern about the Gateway plan, saying rural residents will be left behind as the government focuses on the massive project.
During her speech to municipal politicians, James said B.C.'s economic boom is leaving too many people behind and that the province should increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour to ensure the prosperity is shared.
"The premier took a $54,000 increase himself this year," she told delegates at the convention. "It's time that he gave B.C.'s lowest-paid workers the same consideration and increased the minimum wage."
James also said rural communities have been hit hard by the pine beetle epidemic and that should concern every British Columbian.
There are so many dead pine trees that they'd fill 33,000 Stanley Parks, she said.
"It's an unprecedented natural, economic and social disaster, bigger than anything we've seen in our lifetimes. It's threatening communities and thousands of jobs.
"I say return softwood lumber taxes collected at the border back to resource communities to give them the tools they need."
James also wants the Liberals to debate the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement in the legislature.
The agreement between B.C. and Alberta went into effect in April without public debate.
It's touted as a blueprint for other provinces wanting to remove interprovincial trade barriers.
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