Rob Newell, Director of Electoral Area G (Houston rural), has recently received an award on behalf of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) in Victoria.
The 2018 Premier’s Awards (partnerships category) recognizes the efforts of the RDBN and its partners to set up the Hwy. 16 Transportation Action Plan, which includes the low-cost inter-municipal buses that connect communities between Prince George and Terrace.
“Everyone had long come to recognize that it was a necessary service,” said Newell. “The disappearance and death of Indigenous women on Hwy. 16 – often through hitchhiking – was in the forefront.”
The Hwy. 16 Transportation Action Plan is the culmination of a partnership between the province, First Nations, BC Transit and local governments seeking innovative solutions to ensure affordable transportation options along the highway corridor.
Newell said the need to provide transit so that residents could access services not provided in their communities also played a role in the creation of the plan.
The first inter-community transit service started on Jan. 30, 2017, connecting Smithers and Moricetown in 30 minutes. Since then, other new inter-community routes have launched, connecting Burns Lake and Prince George, Houston and Smithers, and Terrace and the Hazeltons.
The new bus service was just one of the components of the plan, which also included a First Nations driver-education program, installation of webcams and all-weather bus shelters along the highway corridor, and a community-vehicle program.
The partnerships category of the annual Premier’s Awards recognizes multi-party initiatives between B.C. public service organizations and organizations in the broader public sector, other levels of government, First Nations communities, or in the private or not-for-profit sectors.
“It’s important to recognize these types of partnerships because it represents the future for our sparsely populated region,” said Newell, adding that the RDBN has been in a coalition with other two northwest regional districts as part of the Northwest BC Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA).
Formed in 2014, the RBA consists of 18 municipal governments and three regional districts seeking a share of government revenue from future resource developments.
“Having our fair share of the revenue generated in the north is the only way we can rebuild our infrastructure and bring vitality back into our communities,” he added.