July 1 is a day for Canadians to get out and celebrate their country but the date this year will also be the two-month anniversary since the group providing local road rescue service in the area stopped and according to Columbia River – Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald the BC Liberal government still has no plan.
The Golden area has been without local road rescue services since May 1, 2012. The coverage area includes the Trans Canada from the Rogers Pass to Yoho National Park.
“It is the responsibility of the province to ensure that when accidents happen, trained and equipped rescuers are quickly on the scene,” said Macdonald. “These are often life or death situations. But with the summer travel season upon us, there is no one contracted to provide this service in this area.”
It has been estimated that more than 10,000 vehicles per day travel this section of road in the summer months.
Macdonald believes getting the situation resolved should be a top priority of the provincial government.
Justice Minister Shirley Bond said the province is working towards finding a solution to the issue.
“The Province continues to work in good faith with all the partners involved – including MLA Norm Macdonald – to try and find a suitable solution. We continue to explore options to support a qualified group to provide Road Rescue Service to the region, but we also need to ensure there is a partnership and support at the local level. We understand that a timely solution is necessary to support the community and we continue to pursue one,” Bond said.
This plan, based on how other areas of the province provides support, may not work on Golden according to Macdonald.
“There is no question that the government is going to have to move outside its traditional service provision model to solve this problem, and it is going to cost the government money. The current situation is unacceptable,” he said.
Macdonald admitted to being frustrated with the situation as he does not think it should remain in limbo.
“The Province has to step in and solve there problem here on the provincial roads.”
On May 1, the Province proposed a one-year pilot project to the Town of Golden “that ensured 100 per cent full reimbursement of costs, plus offered the town $10,000 for their administrative costs to deliver the service for the year. The normal reimbursement rates for things like WorkSafe BC and third party insurance coverage, as well as equipment replacement costs, would still apply. EMBC also offered to support the Fire Department’s application for gaming grants to help them acquire any new capital assets that would supplement what would already be transferred to them from the GADSAR group,” according to Bond.
Macdonald does not believe the plan offered to the community would lead to no local costs.
“The assertion there is no cost to the community is clearly not true. If that is the sticking point the Province needs to address it,” he said.
“We are heading into an incredible busy period and this needs to be sorted out.”
Bond wanted to make sure people realize this issue is a priority for the government and said, “To suggest that road rescue hasn’t been a priority simply isn’t accurate. We made a significant proposal that was declined by Council. Recognizing the importance of this issue, we will continue to work to find a satisfactory solution however, it will require a willingness on everyone’s part to be able to do that.”
Macdonald fears that something terrible will have to happen before the government makes any type of concerted effort to rectify what is not being provided in the area.
“The concern I have is that we are in some way waiting for a tragedy that is completely unnecessary,” he said. “The expectation the travelling public has, quite correctly, is that the government of B.C. has something in place to deal properly with road rescue in the area.”