Letter: Re: RDN Director pushes MOTI to study impacts of fixed link

Thursday, March 12 2015

When Regional District of Nanaimo Director Howard Houle recently met with Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Deputy Director Renee Mounteney, he told her that “there should be a more collaborative approach to include local governments” when MOTI set the terms last September for a feasibility study of a fixed link between Gabriola and Vancouver Island.

What Director Houle may be unaware of is that MOTI Deputy Director Mounteney and other senior MOTI officials including Minister Stone, have apparently already been “collaborating” and consulting with the Gabriola Bridge Society.

According to public FOI [Freedom of Information] documents held at the Gabriola Archives, Mounteney had at least five email contacts with members of the Bridge Society between April and September of 2014.

In a September 23, 2014, email from Mouteney to Gabriola Bridge Society Director Michael Zane, Mounteney wrote, “I will not be directing the feasibility study but Janelle Erwin (MOTI District Engineer) will be the contact for this going forward. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to meet her yet, but she works out of the Nanaimo office and is the Acting District Manager now. Having said that I would be happy to meet with you or Janelle and I would be happy to meet with you.”

Apparently Mounteney’s email to Zane was only the latest in a string of consultative contacts and meetings between MOTI and the Bridge Society that touched on both the 2014 pro-bridge petition and the subsequent feasibility study.

In a May 12, 2014, letter from Gabriola Bridge Society Chairperson Wayne Knibbs to Transportation Minister Todd Stone, Knibbs wrote, “We are a local group that has formed to explore the issue of a fixed link connecting Gabriola Island to Vancouver Island. To this end, we have been in conversation with your ministry on an informal basis and are basing most of our activities on those conversations. We will be asking your ministry to conduct an impartial feasibility study of a bridge connecting Gabriola Island to Cedar via False Narrows, Mudge Island and Dodds (sic) Narrows.

“To that end, in order to demonstrate a local appetite for such a conversation, we are conducting a local petition asking your ministry to conduct such a study. We intent (sic) to present the petition to Government in the first part of June of this year. Our society would welcome any feedback from Government or particularly your ministry about our efforts, or questions about us or our efforts.”

Houle is right to question the lack of consultation between MOTI and local governments including the RDN, Islands Trust and the City of Nanaimo. 

Perhaps he should also ask MOTI’s Mounteney, what has been the extent of consultations between MOTI and the pro-bridge lobby group, the Gabriola Bridge Society, and how have those consultations determined the process so far?

Sincerely,

~ Ivan Bulic