Recent announcements by the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Mary Polak, about proposed plans to widen the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops and the Alberta border, are being seen by Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald as little more than a bid to garner votes in the upcoming election.
On Sept. 28, 2012, Premier Christy Clark announced the government’s commitment to invest $650 million over 10 years into Highway 1 between Kamloops and the Alberta border.
Minister Polak recently stated, “Widening the remainder of the Trans-Canada Highway between Kamloops to the Alberta border is critical for supporting goods movement, trade and tourism, and growing our economy. By engaging local communities and other stakeholders, we’ll be able to modify and improve the projects already under development and prioritize additional work going forward.”
Macdonald sees this as more promises, which have not been lived up to in the past.
“I think that anybody who lives around here and drives on the roads saw the signs they put up before the 2009 election. They promised four-laning from the Alberta border to Kamloops. Unless there is money to spend, and they are actually going to do something, the idea of putting up more signs seems rather silly,” Macdonald said.
He went on and explained he sees this as nothing more than a pre-election gambit for the BC Liberals.
“It did not work in 2009 and I don’t think it will work now,” he said.
A public engagement process that will include both public and stakeholders meetings, will be happening over the next month. The meeting in Golden, which is more of an information session, is currently set to happen on Wednesday, Feb. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Golden Civic Centre.
Macdonald said that nothing is going to happen with this project until the federal government gets involved and starts discussions, which he hopes will happen sooner rather than later.
He also said that in his opinion the government is “out of reality” if they think a ploy like this will win people over. He added that a large sum of money will have to be spent just on upgrades on the highway, and this will include work on bridges and projects in the canyon east of Golden.
“There has to be that investment to replace bridges,” he said. “The one project that we are waiting for here in the Kicking Horse is a sum greater than that.”
Macdonald added that people are tired of hearing announcements that do not come with a set plan in place for the completion of the project.
Minister of Environment, Terry Lake, said that this project is one of great importance for the government.
“A safe, reliable Trans-Canada Highway is a priority for government, it’s vital for communities along the corridor, and it’s extremely important to the economy of the province as a whole. I encourage people to come out to these Highway 1 open houses to learn more about plans under development and to offer their input on planned and future Highway 1 upgrades.”
Macdonald said that some work has been completed on the highway, but nothing so far that would lead him to believe the four-lane highway is close for the people in the area.
“I do want to say there has been some really good work done over the last decade. People know that we have made some real progress and we have another project that is going on. But we are a long way from any plan that is going to take us with twinning from Alberta to Kamloops,” he said.