NOLC urges support for Coquihalla rally

June 1, 2003

Okanagan residents are being urged to drive out to the Coquihalla toll booths on June 7 to join a rally opposing privatization of this important Interior highway.

"People will be coming from all directions to send a message to Victoria that the Interior's key link with the coast should not be given away to private operators," said David Doran, president of the North Okanagan Labour Council.

The rally is being organized by the Kamloops-based Save the Coquihalla Coalition with many other organizations from all over the Interior working hard to make the 1 p.m. event a success.

"This is one battle with the B.C. Liberals we can win," said Doran. "They can't ignore forever the overwhelming opposition, from people of all political stripes, to this short-sighted privatization scheme.

The NOLC recently urged the four Liberal MLAs in its area to start listening to their constituents on the privatization issue.

In letters to Vernon's Tom Christensen, Kelowna's Sindi Hawkins and John Weisbeck and Okanagan-Westside's Rick Thorpe, Doran asked the MLAs to speak up for their constituents and tell the Campbell government not to proceed with privatization.

"Important pieces of public infrastructure, like the Coquihalla Highway, the main link between the Interior and Coast, should not be given away to private operators in sweetheart, lifetime deals," he wrote.

"We believe important public assets such as our highways should remain publicly owned and operated, so the people's interest and safety, not the profit interest, remains the top priority.

"We are also concerned the government will not be able to live up to its promise to properly monitor the contractor due to cuts that have gutted Ministry of Transportation staff."

A 30-per-cent increase in tolls, with promises of more increases to come under privatization, also alarms Doran.

"Privatizing our highway and increasing tolls will have a negative impact on our region's economy," he said. "Our region relies on the efficient movement of people and goods. This will be a blow to our tourism and manufacturing sectors."

To the MLAs, he wrote: "Our members are appalled as well at the prospect of paying higher tolls to drive the highway. We fail to understand how anyone can claim a 30 per cent increase in rates can be considered reasonable.

"The frequent-user rates, highly touted by your government, will benefit only a small minority of drivers. This privatization and toll-raising scheme offers nothing but more hardship and costs for residents of the Interior."



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