Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon met with Delta business leaders earlier this month to talk about the province’s plans for the region in the near future.
After giving a rundown of the recent provincial budget at a Delta Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday, March 1, Kahlon fielded questions from the audience, which included inquiries on the Trans Mountain pipeline and the George Massey Tunnel replacement.
The NDP MLA said he is pleased that regional mayors are discussing ways to replace the Massey Tunnel through a Metro Vancouver working group, and that the provincial government expects a new business case for the project in fall 2020. The NDP cancelled plans to replace the aging tunnel — considered one of the worst bottle necks in the province — with a 10-lane bridge when it took over from the BC Liberals in 2017.
“I think there’s an understanding that everyone’s affected by it, all the way from the mayor of Surrey, to Richmond, to Vancouver, so I feel that’s moving along and I am looking forward to hearing more about those discussions,” Kahlon told the audience at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn.
“We know that people are eager for relief. That’s why at the same time we’re moving quickly on safety and reliability upgrades to the Highway 99 corridor on both sides of the Fraser River. This work involves new lighting, drainage, pavement lines marking, fire doors, and alarm, ventilation, pumping and electrical systems.”
On the matter of twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline for the shipment of Albertan oil to the West Coast, Kahlon reaffirmed the provincial government’s position that it is not in the economic interest of British Columbia to build the pipeline. He argued the project would endanger the B.C.’s coastal industries.
“We have a coast line where there’s thousands of jobs at risk,” he said during the question-and-answer portion of the event.
“I know even Delta had issued a report prior to the last election talking about the economic risks to Delta, and these challenges are real. Not to mention challenges with Indigenous and First Nations along the route.”
In regard to the ongoing deaths related to opioid use, Kahlon called it “the biggest health crisis of our time,” saying the Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction has been trying to address the issue by providing free naloxone kits to care providers and staging public awareness campaigns.
“There is not an easy way to address this and every community has their unique challenges,” he said, also citing Minster Judy Darcy’s description of the crisis as a triage in the last two years, where the province was trying to get control of the problem and “stop the bleeding.”
Kahlon told the Reporter the province is trying to add more treatment spaces for people who want to get off drugs, the shortage of which he said is a challenge when people using drugs are ready to stop. The province, he said, is also putting more money into community services already in place.
“The window is short when a person is trying to get help,” he said. “Instead of [reinventing] the wheel, we’ve decided we’re going to put a lot of effort to support the community groups that are already doing the work and help fund them to expand their services.”
He could not put a specific dollar amount to the expansion of programs, but said more information will become available in the next weeks.