Bob Zimmer: The people of Old Fort deserve answers

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Almost two years after a landslide forced Old Fort residents from their homes, they are now facing another landslide that has once again wiped out the only road leading in and out of the community.

Having spoken to many residents and having been out to see this new landslide myself, I believe wholeheartedly that residents deserve answers.

At a recent community meeting, two key issues surfaced that I believe should be the focus of any conversation going forward.

In the short-term, residents need temporary access in and out of the community as soon as possible. Right now, the only way to get in is a precarious trip up and down the Peace hills, or a 30 minute river boat ride.

Long-term, a permanent road that is not at risk of failing needs to be built or a community relocation plan with buyout may need to be considered.

Whatever happens next, what is clear is that transparency and being upfront with residents needs to be a priority for all decision makers. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case since the initial slide, with the Peace River Regional District having to go so far as to submit a Freedom of Information request to try to get answers from the provincial government.

Unfortunately, that didn’t get them any answers either, as the response they received back from the province was that the information couldn’t be released because the disclosure would be “harmful to law enforcement.”

It’s shameful that the Peace River Regional District even had to submit a Freedom of Information request to the province to try to get answers from the provincial government in the first place. Since the second landslide, the province has informed the Peace River Regional District that this request is now under review.

I have written to the BC Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on numerous occasions trying to get answers for the Peace River Regional District and Old Fort residents. In response to one of my previous letters, the now former Minister stated that the Chief Inspector will “take the necessary time to adequately consider the information and prepare the investigation findings.”

With Old Fort residents in the midst of another landslide, I have written again asking for a timeline for when this investigation will be completed and asking that this information be provided to the Peace River Regional District as soon as possible so they can move forward.

I also took part in a recent conference call with the BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, MLA Dan Davies, PRRD Chair Brad Sperling, and community representative Gord Pardy, where we reiterated to the Minister the need for safe temporary access in and out of the community so that emergency services like water and garbage removal could get to the community.

I will keep working with Gord, Dan and Brad to get residents of Old Fort the answers they deserve.

Bob Zimmer is the Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies.    

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