BC drivers will be paying more for gas next month, but they’ll soon be driving on better highways.
That’s the word from the provincial government, which last week announced a 3.5 cent per litre gas tax hike, to take effect March 1. Money raised by this tax increase will be spent on highway projects.
The Observer asked MLA Bill Belsey whether there are any highway improvement projects planned for the islands, but he said it’s not yet clear where the new money will be spent. The Ministry of Highways is setting up regional groups which will give government advice about which roads need fixing up.
In fact, Mr. Belsey said, the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District has suggested Masset mayor Barry Pages as chair of the advisory group for this region.
The Observer also asked Mr. Belsey why the government has backtracked on its plan to make inland ferry users pay for the service, when islanders are facing huge ferry fare increases over the next five years.
“That’s a very, very, very good question,” Mr. Belsey said. “I’m the first to admit, not everything this government does makes sense.”
However, he said, other MLAs have offered a couple of reasons, including that fresh water ferries cost much less to maintain than salt water ferries, and that some interior communities have long-standing agreements in which the province guaranteed free ferry service instead of building a bridge, or after flooding certain areas.
The provincial government has made a commitment to increase ferry service between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert to once a day during the tourist season, Mr. Belsey added. The new schedule may not happen until next year, and it may mean a new vessel, he said.
As for the Prince Rupert-Skidegate route, Mr. Belsey said he would like to see the dangerous goods barge service expanded to carry commercial trailers, freeing up more space for tourists in the summer.
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