Capital Regional District staff, in a move supported by View Royal Mayor David Screech and Sidney Mayor Steve Price, have recommended the CRD move to counter petition for approval to create a new $2.5 million regional transportation authority.
A move Langford Mayor Stew Young said is an under-handed way of taking money from Langford taxpayers to “pay for useless and unneeded studies.”
“You want to know what the transportation priorities are? You don’t have to go out and hire a consultant. Try stepping out of your office and actually talking to the people who are using the roads and highways. They already know what the priorities should be and are looking for government to do something about them. What they don’t need is another useless level of bureaucracy doing what others are already doing,” Young said.
According to Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell, the original iteration of the proposal was to spend $10 million on the service and, when some of the municipalities balked at what she said was an exorbitant price tag, staff came back with the $2.5 million plan.
“And when we made it clear we wouldn’t support the transportation authority, even at $2.5 million, they left it at third reading at the CRD but indicated that they are planning to go to an alternative approval process [counter petition] to push this through. It would mean that we’d have to come up with 33,000 signatures to prevent them from taking our money and using it for something we don’t want and know isn’t needed,” Blackwell said. “The game is rigged.”
Screech, a proponent of the transportation authority, takes issue with Langford council’s position.
“I guess they didn’t get the memo that there’s no increase in the money [we’d be taking from Langford]. This is a zero dollar increase,” said Screech, maintaining that the money is simply a reallocation of existing funds already within the system.
When asked if more funds could be needed in the future, Screech said “every service has financial ramifications as time goes on, but if we don’t do something just because it may cost more later on, we’d never do anything.”
He added, “as far as I can see, the regional transportation planning is non-existent and we have no cohesive voice to speak to the province or other municipalities. In the long run it’s the residents who are getting shafted.”
It’s a position Young disagrees with.
“The last place I want to put my taxpayer’s money is the CRD – especially for transportation planning. The province is already studying this and have thousands of people who know what they’re doing. The CRD is out of its league, and honestly, look at how effective they were on planning the sewage project and tell me this is something we should trust them to take on,” Young said.
“I had a meeting with Price and some of the others when this idea was first floated and they had no idea of the specifics of what they’re looking for. Before I spend that kind of money in Langford, I want to know what I’m buying.”
Young noted there are transportation specialists already studying the Capital Region’s challenges within the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, B.C. Transit, at the federal level, and within each municipality. He maintained that adding a fifth level of bureaucracy to the mix would do noting but muddy the waters.
“I can tell you that the top three transportation issues for tax payers in Langford are the highway out to the West Shore, the highway out to Sooke, and what to do with the E&N Rail corridor. And I don’t need to be spending $2.5 million to find that out. I just talk to people,” Young said.
The move to go to counter petition is on hold for the moment, but Blackwell fears it will eventually be forced through.
“In the end, we may not be able to stop it … but we’ll go down fighting,” she said.