By Ray Hudson
Peter Fassbender, the Minister for TransLink, the Minister for Sport Culture and Community and MLA for Fleetword Port Kells, told the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce that the government was on track toward its next appointment with the electors in 2017, “shareholders” he called them, saying although the Federal Liberals called for Real Change, the provincial Liberals have a mantra that change isn’t something that happens once in a while.
“Our message is, we change all the time,” said Fassbender. “We recognize the world is changing. We had a very clear vision for the future, and what we need to do to keep our economy strong, to keep us moving ahead. That’s why we had three balanced budgets, that’s why we protected our credit rating.”
Fassbender delivered two main messages: that positive things are happening across the resource sectors, and that they will resolve the TransLink funding conundrum to improve the transportation issues of the lower mainland and particularly the south of Fraser region.
“I was a mayor for three terms and a councillor for one term,” said the minister. “I sat at the Mayor’s Council for Transportation. I’ve been involved in the issues and understand them. I’ve worked with many of the players who are still around the table. But I’m absolutely committed, as I was in the Education file, to find a solution and not focus on the problems. With the healthcare dispute, we said, we’re going to get a negotiated settlement. And because the Premier the Cabinet and Caucus were committed to getting to that goal, and I was the person who was in that portfolio, we got the longest negotiated settlement in the history of the province of BC.”
The minister agreed that many on the south side of the Fraser have strong feelings about transit, but said the goal is to ensure that they deliver what is needed in this region as it continues to grow and expand.
“We’re going to get there,” said Fassbender. “It’s not going to be easy but we have a great relationship with our partners south of the Fraser and in the northeast sector, and we’re going to find a solution. People have been citing the plebiscite saying that the public doesn’t want to pay any more taxes when it comes to transit. I say they don’t want to pay tax because there is a lack of confidence (in TransLink). Some of it is deserved because of management style, but a lot of it is not.”
Fassbender said that at a meeting he attended recently, people in Toronto and Montreal indicated they saw BC as a leader when it comes to the BC transportation system in the world.
“Inside BC we keep kicking ourselves,” he said. He went on to say that a negative attitude developed during the referendum, which eroded public confidence in TransLink. Yet he claims that people have said they would be willing to pay more if they could be confident the money would be spent wisely, and would go where it should.
“Surrey needs more transportation options than we have, we’re going to find a way to fund it, and we’re going to keep our eye on that and work and work and work to achieve that goal,” said Fassbender. “That’s my commitment to you on behalf of my team.”
Turning to the resource sectors Fassbender claimed that BC will lead the country in economic growth in the next couple of years, adding that progress was being made with respect to Liquified Natural Gas (LNG).
“I will make you a prediction,” he stated. “We will have final investment decisions into 2016, and not just one, but probably two or three projects moving forward. And while we are doing that we will not have forgotten about the other parts of our economy.”
He described how agriculture is growing significantly, people in the mining and commodities sectors are expecting a resurgence as commodity prices shift again, that Forests Minister Steve Thompson is going around the world looking for value-added opportunities in the forest industry, and to top it off, stated that Technology is the fastest growing sector in our economy in BC.
“So we have a balanced economy,” Fassbender said. “I know it hasn’t been easy for everyone, but if you look at the rest of the world, if British Columbia and our government didn’t stay the course, we would not be in the position we are today.”
He finished by again posing the question whether the government should change just because a period time has passed, or that the government remained vital because its vision changes and remains relevant to the challenges of the times.