One of Sooke's main transit bus

B.C. slows Transit seat request

Despite formal request, province says VRTC needs to produce detailed rationale

A plan to have Sooke included on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission could be a long time coming, despite pleas from the commission to the provincial government.

Last summer the commission wrote to Transportation Minister Todd Stone asking that he appoint an additional local government representative from the West Shore, preferably Sooke, to recognize the increase in population.

Under the B.C. Transit Act, the membership of the commission can be increased with the approval of the provincial government through an order in council.

But while both the commission and the District of Sooke have waited more than year for legislation to pass, the Transportation Ministry hasn’t moved on the request.

Instead, according to a statement from the ministry to the Sooke News Mirror this week, it says Sooke’s request should go through the commission.

“I don’t get the disconnect,” said Mayor Maja Tait, adding Sooke never made the request to be added to the board.

“I thought it was now just sitting with Minister Stone to enact the legislation and it’s like, ‘We [the province] don’t know anything about this.’”

Transit commission chair Susan Brice said a formal request was made to the ministry on June 17, 2015.

“We felt that because there has been growth in the western part of Greater Victoria that Sooke would bring a valuable voice to the table,” she said.

The transit commission currently has seven members from Victoria (2), Saanich (2), Peninsula (1), Esquimalt (1) and the West Shore (1). The West Shore represents Sooke and is represented by Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton.

Sooke has its own challenges when it comes to transit, such as distance from other communities and its rurality, which don’t affect other areas, said Brice.

But while the commission wants a Sooke voice, it has not approached the town, said Tait, adding it has never made a presentation to council.

And there might be the rub with the province.

“We are always open to new ideas to further strengthen the commission’s effectiveness. Changes such as these would need to be supported by a detailed rationale from the VRTC includes how the Western communities would be represented,” said the provincial government in its statement.

“We would encourage Sooke to continue to bring their needs and requests forward to the VRTC, so that they will continue to receive the level of transit service that their growing community requires.”

For Tait, it’s been a frustrating process. “We’ve been doing this for years, that’s why the commission has responded, which I greatly appreciate. Like really, we’re starting this all over again.”

Brice points out the province moves slow on some issues.

While the commission has waited more than a year for a response to its request to increase the board size, it has waited more than two years on a request to increase the gas tax by two cents a litre to fund transit initiatives.

“Sometimes it does take time, but you have to lay out your wishes. I’m sure the people at the provincial level have other things they need to also be weighed and considering,” Brice said.