Letter: A collective of islanders advocating for a bridge-free Salish Sea

Tuesday, March 31 2015

Dear Minister Stone:

As you may recall, we have previously written two letters to you expressing our concern regarding your swift, positive response to a group of residents of Gabriola requesting that the Ministry fund a feasibility study regarding the possibility of a bridge across Mudge Island to Gabriola.

Our concerns were threefold: 

First, you responded to the request with an almost immediate allocation of $200,000 to complete the study, yet you apparently did not discuss this decision with any of the groups potentially impacted: the Islands Trust, the City of Nanaimo, the Snuneymuxw First Nation, the Regional District of Nanaimo, residents of Cedar or any of the other 4,000 permanent residents of Gabriola or Mudge. 

Secondly, as you must be aware, the Islands Trust has a very clear position regarding any fixed link to any of the islands within the Trust. You disregarded this position established by our elected officials, although your officials had ample opportunity to discuss it with (then) Islands Trust Chair Sheila Malcolmson a day before the announcement of this study.

Thirdly, it is obvious that the decisions your government have made regarding the operation of BC Ferries have had a profoundly negative impact on the economic and social health of the islands and other ferry-dependent communities. Yet, in spite of a thorough study funded by the UBCM (Union of BC Municipalities), you chose to ignore the results of that study.

Mr. Stone, you acknowledged that the feasibility study would be completed by February 27, 2015, yet in various emails to me and to other Gabriolans who have contacted you, you indicated that you would not “be able to share its findings until summer 2015.”

Mr. Stone, why would you and your Ministry not be able to share the results of this study until summer? The Legislature does not sit in the summer and it is unlikely, given your government’s track record, that there will be a fall sitting. It seems that if it was so important to fund this feasibility study paid for by $200,000 of taxpayers’ money that it would be just as important to present the results in the Legislature for discussion rather than wait until the summer when citizens tend to be more focused on summertime activities and less scrutiny can be afforded by our elected representatives.

We are urging you to immediately release the results of this study and to seriously consider the environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts such a project could have on these very sensitive islands and surrounding areas. 

We have already expressed concern that the study was undertaken with no consultation with anyone except for those relatively few who signed the original request. We would venture to guess that if 600 people from Vancouver requested a study for a ferry to replace the Lion’s Gate Bridge, the response from your Ministry would be significantly different. 

Mr. Stone, waiting five to six months to release the results of this “feasibility study” seems a decision that demonstrates little regard for ensuring that the concerns and apprehensions of those of us who live on these islands are addressed in any timely and respectful manner.

We look forward to your written response.

Respectfully,

~ Stephen O’Neill, on behalf of Bridge-Free Salish Sea