B.C. Premier John Horgan acknowledges the need for improvements to the logging road from Port Alberni to Bamfield where two students from the University of Victoria (UVic) were killed on Sept. 13. The students were en route to the Bamfield Marine Research Centre when their bus rolled off the road down the embankment.
On Thursday, Horgan noted that the problems with the road aren’t new, nor are the concerns. The Huu-ay-aht First Nation has raised concerns about the Bamfield road for many years and that Horgan said he’s seen first-hand how dangerous the road is. Horgan said he spoke to Huu-ay-aht Chief Coun. Robert Dennis Sr. about it 20 years ago – long before he worked in the legislature.
The premier said it’s unfortunate that it took a fatal tragedy for the province to focus its attention on the road. He promised that he, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena, the forestry companies and the local Indigenous community would be working together on the matter.
“Kids travel to Port Alberni on that road every day to go to school,” said Horgan. “If that’s not enough to see action, I don’t know what is.”
He emphasized that the area’s MLA, Scott Fraser, has been working on the issue for over a decade and that the road conditions were touched on by the former provincial government in the 2007-2008 review of B.C.’s logging roads.
Horgan acknowledged that the road itself is privately owned and under the purview of Western Forest Products – a Canadian lumber company – but pointed out that the public uses it so the province is “going to have to find a way forward.”
On Thursday, UVic announced it would be reviewing the circumstances of the bus crash and that an upcoming student trip to the Bamfield Centre would continue as planned. Horgan did not comment on the University of Victoria’s decision not to cancel the October trip. However, he noted that “clearly a bus of that size is not appropriate on that road.”
With files from Tom Fletcher.