In one of Canada’s hottest contests this election, six candidates can’t agree on how to solve the transportation woes of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.
Whether it’s rail, an overpass on the Trans-Canada Highway or a move away from gas-powered vehicles altogether, the opinions are as varied as the candidates presenting them.
As Green Party candidate Shaunna Salsman sees it, job creation would eliminate the need to commute. Any commuters remaining should steer clear of the gas station.
“I still see personal vehicles in the future, but I just see clean-energy personal vehicle in the future,” she said. “I don’t think road improvements are a backwards way.”
Those road improvements are the signature priority of Conservative candidate Troy DeSouza, who lost to current Liberal MP Keith Martin by just a handful of votes in the 2008 election.
DeSouza said his plan is to get federal funding for an overpass to cross the Trans-Canada at McKenzie Avenue, but doesn’t stop there. That overpass must have high-occupancy vehicle lanes. That’s the medium-term goal. Long-term, the region needs rail, he said.
“We need integrated transportation that actually works for commuters,” he said.
“I’m also a huge proponent of rail, but in the short term it’s going to be a challenge. … Other candidates are saying we’ve got to choose (between road and rail). I’m saying you could do both.”
Liberal candidate Lillian Szpak said the cost issues associated with an all-encompassing transportation solution could be addressed if the federal government hands 100 per cent of gas tax revenue back to municipalities.
“It would go a long way toward (solving the transit puzzle),” she said. “It would be ongoing sustainable funding.”
Increased gas tax revenues should be handed to municipalities immediately and on the Island, that money would fix the E&N railway to move commuters and freight, said NDP candidate Randall Garrison.
“Those are two things we can do right away,” he said, adding rail is the solution to keeping commuters moving.
Independent candidate Louis Lesosky agreed the E&N is the answer for commuters and said people need to get out of their cars.
Meanwhile, Canadian Action Party candidate Christopher Porter didn’t give a specific vision for the region’s transportation, but said the answer would be found in public forums.
At the mention of the word defence, Porter quickly noted Canada’s border integrity is at risk.
He said outside military forces should not be welcomed too easily into the country and added our own forces should stay at home more often.
Lesosky said the Canadian Forces should stick to peacekeeping missions with the United Nations – and when they aren’t abroad, should pick up a shovel and contribute to food production.
While Garrison said defence spending should favour ships before jets, other candidates said Canada should prioritize both – as long as the money went to the right jets.
“I know we’re all in this together – I’m not going choose one branch of service or another,” DeSouza said.
All six candidates agreed sewage treatment is needed on the South Island and all concurred the Capital Regional District’s current proposal is undesirable.
Before a decision is made and all three levels of government chip in their one-third shares of the nearly $1-billion project, technologies must be reinvestigated to ensure the region gets its money’s worth from the service, they said, including resource recovery.
Porter said the federal government must step in to organize public forums where residents could debate the issue and decide what’s best for the region.