Every once in a while nothing else will do but a stiffly worded letter of protest…
Minister of State for Infrastructure
Dear Minister Ma,
I am the Area E representative for the Sunshine Coast Regional District and recently attended the Climate Leaders Conference, hosted by the Community Energy Association at UBC. We had a number of guest speakers, including senior staff from Clean BC, who shared their passionate commitment to the Clean BC Roadmap.
The Roadmap outlines “enhanced funding and supports for active transportation,” but our single biggest barrier is our own government. While the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s service plan calls for “investing in active transportation network improvements and other more socially and environmentally responsible modes of transportation,” the reality on the ground is that MOTI is still building roads and approving rural subdivisions as if it were 1970.
I’ve come to appreciate that whenever MOTI (or ICBC) discuss “safety”, what they mean is safety for motor vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists are regarded as a hazard to traffic, and as such MOTI wants them kept off the roads, especially numbered highways. In areas such as ours where there is only one road connecting communities, this creates lethal conditions for anyone who tries to walk, cycle or take a bus. In my electoral area, along a densely populated one-kilometre section of Hwy 101, two people have died trying to cross the highway from a bus stop, and parents forbid their children to use transit because it’s too dangerous.
I’ve also learned that MOTI is obsessed with consistency, for example in road design standards. But this is a dramatically diverse province, with a wide range of landscapes and community needs. Regional districts and citizens of rural areas have no way to compel MOTI to even tell us what they’re doing, never mind consult us—their practices and policies are neither transparent nor accountable. And while regional districts are tasked with creating regional growth plans, it’s not possible to plan growth when the rural road network continues to be assembled piecemeal, according to narrow, outdated, contextually blind policies.
This inability to adapt our roads to meet local needs and priorities is infuriating, as well as a major barrier to climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Finally, the biggest single climate related problem in my area is stormwater, a situation that has been exacerbated by decades of MOTI decisions around drainage and creek diversions, and their policy that water is not their problem “once it leaves the road.” To even start to deal with this worsening mess, we need MOTI at the table and committed to implement their own long-ignored best practices for stormwater management. I’ll further point out that creating new plans and policies is not enough unless the organizational culture of MOTI is addressed at every level.
Almost half a million British Columbians live in the unincorporated areas of this province, which make up the vast majority of our land base. We are living with the effects of climate change and striving to make changes to meet Clean BC goals, but we cannot make significant progress when we have no say over the backbones of our communities—our public roads.
We need your help.
I would be happy to provide any further information or suggestions. Thank you for your consideration.
Area E Director, Vice Chair
Sunshine Coast Regional District
Nicholas Simons, MLA for Powell River – Sunshine Coast, Minister of Social Development & Poverty Reduction
Darnelda Siegers, SCRD Chair
Grace McGregor, Electoral Area Representative, UBCM
Elphinstone Community Association
Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast
Community Energy Assn