When B.C. Premier John Horgan broke the news about a potential solution to Greater Victoria’s commuter woes, he chose to do so at a lunch hosted on May 15 by our region’s five chambers of commerce.
The event, organized by the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, was attended by 400 community leaders who understand the value of hearing firsthand from the Premier.
Mr. Horgan announced that the Province wants to use the E&N corridor for moving people, and that there is no business case for using rail. He said he was committed to making this happen during government’s current term and suggested the right-of-way will be used for a rapid bus line. Judging by the applause, this was welcome news for many of the folks packed into Crystal Garden.
Clearly there is a consensus that something needs to be done to ease commuter traffic between the West Shore and downtown Victoria. The decision to move past discussions about using trains on this corridor is, naturally, a tough pill for folks who have long advocated for the return of rail.
A few days after our luncheon, the Premier said using the tracks for a train became much less feasible when the City of Victoria chose to terminate the track in Vic West rather than spend money on running rail lines across the new Johnson Street Bridge.
But that was a different mayor and council and a different government than we have today.
We applaud the decision to find a solution to traffic congestion, and using the E&N corridor makes sense. Running commuter buses along the corridor sounds like an affordable and flexible alternative to a train, though we still need to see the numbers behind the proposal. We also need a schedule for when we can actually expect to see this concept in action.
As MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca, the Premier knows this issue is a longtime concern for commuters in Greater Victoria. In fact, the need for a regional approach to transportation planning is a pillar of The Chamber’s Advocacy Priorities.
Facetime with this level of government is never easy to achieve, and we are grateful Premier Horgan, Finance Minister Carole James and Education Minister Rob Fleming (also local MLAs) were able to join us.
Chambers of commerce like to call ourselves the “voice of business.” We are mandated by our members to listen to their collective concerns and find ways to ensure government decision makers hear them too. At the lunch with the Premier, we heard from him but he also heard from us.