Opinion » Editorial


Besides promising to open up a dialogue on the 2010 Winter Olympic bid, Don Calder, the chief executive officer of the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 bid corporation, touched on several issues Monday which to date haven’t been part of what little public discussion there has been about the Olympics. Calder was in town for a brief presentation to Whistler council. He repeatedly stressed the need for dialogue with Whistler residents and taxpayers regarding the Olympic bid and the importance of public support for the bid. His message was clear: without public support the bid won’t be successful. But Calder also laid out the timeline for the bid. It will be submitted to the International Olympic Committee by Sept. 1, 2002. That’s just over two years and nine months away. At that time all of the technical details of the bid must be resolved, including transportation issues, housing, sports facilities, security and probably a million other details. These things don’t have to be built or in place by that time, but there has to be commitments to them; i.e., money made available. This is particularly interesting in regard to the transportation plan for the Olympics. Whistler, of course, is hoping some sort of improved transportation system between the Lower Mainland and our hamlet is part of the Olympic legacy. An improved transportation system for the Sea to Sky Corridor may mean highway upgrades, a new highway, a better bus system, better rail service and even ferry service. It could be a combination of some of these elements but whatever system is chosen will also have to factor in how people are going to get across Burrard Inlet to use the system, which likely means a tunnel or a new bridge. Any way you slice it a transportation system to move people from the Lower Mainland through the length of the Sea to Sky Corridor is going to require a huge financial commitment, affecting other transportation decisions across the province. As Calder said Monday, the Olympics aren’t the impetus for these transportation improvements — they’re needed now — and the Olympics won’t solve the transportation issue, but they could be a catalyst for a solution. The interesting part is the timing. The provincial government, which at the moment is the official signatory for the Olympic bid, will be the major player in the transportation issue, even if a private company comes up with a self-financing plan to build a new bridge/tunnel/highway/railway/ferry/canal system. But given the state of affairs in Victoria for the last 12 months, it’s unlikely anyone in government has been devoting much time to this transportation issue. And they won’t be before February, when the NDP elect a new leader. The pundits predict that a provincial election will follow within six or seven months, so there will be more time spent on that campaign. It likely won’t be until some time next fall that the next provincial government can really start devoting some time to considering the transportation issues between the Lower Mainland and the Sea to Sky Corridor — just two years before the bid is to be presented. And given the state of the provincial coffers, and with the health care system in crisis and education underfunded, no government is going to be anxious to commit hundreds of millions of dollars to a transportation system to get people to a ski hill. Of course the transportation system doesn’t have to be built by September of 2002, there just has to be a commitment to a solution. Still, given all the other issues facing B.C. in the next two years and nine months, it’s not going to be easy to sell the general public on a corridor transportation plan.

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