Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons promised to relay the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce’s invitation to Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) Rob Fleming to attend one of its upcoming meetings. He also agreed to encourage that the minister make the trip using the same challenge-plagued transportation modes as Coast residents, BC Ferries and Highway 101.
Simons attended the virtual chamber gathering on Feb 25 and fielded questions from members. Chamber president John Henderson said he hoped that Minister Fleming’s appearance could be arranged for the next Chamber meeting, at the end of March, which will be its 2022 annual general meeting.
The first question posed of Simons was when funding for a rebuild or substantial improvements to the Sunshine Coast highway would be coming.
“I have never seen the road (Highway 101) in worse condition,” the MLA said. Admitting that he was not aware of any major funding commitments to the Coast’s main vehicle corridor in the current budget, he suggested the question be asked of Minister Fleming. In discussion of planning for the potential visit of Fleming to the area, Chamber president John Henderson suggested he only be welcomed if he agreed to avoid the convenience of air travel in favour of the land and water route used by most residents to travel to off-Coast events. (The most recent Chamber meeting with a MOTI Minister was Sept. 10, 2020 when former minister Clare Travena participated via video link. In 2014, then-MOTI Minister Todd Stone visited Sechelt in person.)
When questioned on what the province would do to advance the cause for assigning a second ship on BC Ferries Route 3 between Langdale and Horseshoe Bay, Simons said that BC Ferries needed to consider that in its strategic plan. “There was a time when it was part of their plan, not sure if it changed with COVID, but we obviously need two ferries on Route 3. I also hope that they have plans in place for supplemental trips in the summer.”
“Harbour Air is now flying Vancouver to Powell River” Simons said. He noted that indicated to him that “the need is there” for better transportation links between the Coast and the Lower Mainland.
Simons referred to the issues on Route 3 as ”a slow motion crisis that we have seen coming. Coasters just want to know is there a boat coming or not.” When asked by Chamber members if the business community could help in the lobby for better ferry services, Simons said that emails directed to him explaining the impacts of ferry delays and unavailability on their operations would be helpful.
Programs valued at $2 billion in the province’s HousingHub initiative that builders can access to increase the supply of affordable housing units were highlighted by the MLA. He said that program administration has slowed the progress of applications in the past, but improvements have been made. He called the delay in construction of the 104 apartment unit expansion at the Sunshine Coast Lion’s Housing Authority’s Greenecourt development “troubling."
Simons also drew attention to the appointment of Josie Osborne as the first Minister of Land, Water and Natural Resource Stewardship. That new ministry takes on some of the responsibilities formerly handled under the Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development ministry. A new, streamlined, Ministry of Forests, focused on modernizing forest policy and forest sector renewal retains Katrine Conroy as its minister.