J. Rice: After three years, we have a symposium. Let’s remember, this was an urgent recommendation made by the Missing Women Commission — a recommendation that intended to prevent the abduction and murder of aboriginal women and girls. After speaking to bereaved family members and listening to community leaders, the commissioner urged the government to act immediately to improve public transportation on the Highway of Tears.
The B.C. Liberals could afford to give commercial wineries $5 million, no strings attached. Why do they plead poverty when it comes to saving the lives of aboriginal women and girls?
Hon. T. Stone: Folks throughout the corridor, whether they’re First Nations or community leaders or local government leaders, have acknowledged that there is more work to do. They have made that very clear. We have made that very clear. That is why we are continuing to do the hard work.
But there’s also an acknowledgment amongst folks along Highway 16 that there has been some progress to date. There is a B.C. Transit service — a $1.5 million investment per year — that connects a number of communities along Highway 16 between, for example, Smithers and Telkwa, the Hazeltons, both Smithers and Kispiox, Terrace and Kitimat, as well as Prince Rupert and Port Edward. There’s the Northern Health bus, a $2 million investment per year, which operates and provides a vital service along Highway 16.
We’ve seen a significant expansion of cellular service. We’ve invested in driver education and training with First Nations. We are doing the work to make this corridor safer, and that work will continue in the months ahead.
Madame Speaker: The member for North Coast on a supplemental.
J. Rice: After three years we have a symposium, and that’s considered hard work? In 2006, community leaders, First Nations and the families of those murdered along the Highway of Tears called for enhanced public transportation along Highway 16. This call was echoed by the murdered and missing women inquiry. After nearly a decade of waiting for real action, the only thing the Minister of Transportation is offering is more meetings.
We know community leaders want public transportation. We know it’s affordable, and we know it’s practical. We know it will save lives. So why isn’t it being done?
Hon. T. Stone: The member opposite may choose to talk down to this concept of a symposium. The First Nations community leaders, those who will be participating, have said to us that they actually welcome the opportunity. This is an opportunity that’s being provided in partnership between the ministry and the First Nations Health Authority. There will be two representatives of each of the 23 First Nations there. There will be local government leaders and other stakeholders from throughout the corridor. They will be focused on specific, tangible, practical solutions, leveraging best practices which are being employed in various communities along the corridor.
Instead of calling into question the worthiness of this exercise, the member should support it and should wish all of the participants well as we continue to work together to identify further solutions that will make the corridor safer.