In a speech Thursday at The Beach Club that received a standing ovation from 100 members of the Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce

Parksville mayor says Vancouver Islanders need a better voice

Chris Burger told a crowd in Parksville a caucus of Island mayors should be formed to lobby Victoria and Ottawa for infrastructure cash

Parksville Mayor Chris Burger says Vancouver Islanders are getting a raw deal from senior governments and he wants a group of his colleagues to make some noise about it.

Burger was the guest speaker at a chamber of commerce dinner Thursday night at The Beach Club.

“We need to assert ourselves,” said Burger. “I’m just not feeling like we’re getting any attention. We don’t have an effective voice, someone to pull us all together.”

Burger told the gathering of 100 business people he would like to see a caucus of mayors representing the Island’s 750,000 residents be the group that lobbies both Ottawa and Victoria to bring more tax dollars back to the Island in the form of infrastructure money. He said he was reading a federal government document about billions of dollars in infrastructure projects being funded nationwide and a search of the document using the key words “Vancouver Island” returned no results.

“They are putting $600 million into the subway in Toronto,” said Burger, who received a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of his address. “What are they putting into projects here?”

Earlier the same day of Burger’s speech, Prime Minister Stephen Harper provided some details of a $14-billion, 10-year infrastructure fund that will take effect on April 1. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters he believes much of that money should go to his city.

“We’re the largest city in Canada, and I think we deserve a lion’s share of the money because we have unique needs that other cities don’t,” said Ford, according to The Globe and Mail.

Thursday night at The Beach Club, Burger said the rail lines on Vancouver Island would be a good place to start for infrastructure money from senior levels of government.

“We need our single and only rail line up and running here,” said the long-time municipal politician who is in his first term as Parksville’s mayor. “We need to bring industry back to this Island.”

Burger also said he didn’t believe the current owners of the railway, the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), is the right group to lobby on behalf of Islanders.

“I’m not going to send them (senior government officials) to (ICF boss) Graham Bruce, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “We need that line running into Port Alberni — we need industry back.”

Burger also pointed to transportation projects getting attention in B.C.’s north and other parts of the country which are helping the economies of those regions by easing the flow of good and services. He spoke of the Sea to Sky Highway, the BC Ferries system and even the Confederation Bridge linking two provinces (New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island) that have a total population (about 900,000) close that of Vancouver Island.

“We’re working so hard at the local level and I just think there’s a voice missing,” Burger said in an interview after his speech. He was asked if his comments were directed at the job being done by local provincial (B.C. Liberal MLA Michelle Stilwell) and federal (Conservative MP James Lunney) representatives, members of parties who are in power in Victoria and Ottawa, respectively.

“I’m talking about a unified voice for the Island proper,” he said. “And I’m thinking that the way to do it is through the mayors.”

Parksville and District Chamber of Commerce CEO Kim Burden seemed to agree with what Burger said, and he said he liked the concept of a mayors’ caucus.

“I think we need to do something or get off the pot as far as the railway is concerned,” Burden said after the meeting. “Its been going on for way too long, the tracks are deplorable, the efforts by the ICF are not working. I think we do need more commitment from our senior levels of government on both the railway issue and the ferries issue. We get very little back in the way of infrastructure funding  considering the size of our contribution to the tax coffers both in Ottawa and Victoria.”

Burger was asked what he would say if he had an audience with Premier Christy Clark and/or Harper.

“I would say the Island is drifting away from the province and you need to bring us back in,” said the Parksville mayor, who also denied his speech was the start of any unofficial campaign for him to seek senior political office.

Just Posted

Inspirational Parksville youngster Kaiden Finley dies after cancer battle

‘He was seriously the strongest 11-year-old’

Development cost charges considered to fund regional parks

DCCs to assist in funding land acquisitions and development

Parksville powerlifter qualifies for world championships

Buhler sets personal bests in both raw and equipped lifting events

Wires left dangling after van crashes into hydro pole in Dashwood

Road closed while BC Hydro crews dealt with situation

Police go on hunt for distracted drivers in Parksville Qualicum Beach

One motorist ticketed for not wearing a seatbelt and using a cellphone while driving

VIDEO: The ‘most cosmopolitan’ of butterflies could migrate to B.C.

The painted lady butterfly will likely arrive this summer from Southern California

Indecent caller handed 18-month conditional sentence

Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to making indecent phone and video calls to women across B.C.

First Nations public art piece stolen in Nanaimo

Spindle Whorl went missing over the weekend, according to Nanaimo RCMP

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

Prime Minister Trudeau comes campaigning in Nanaimo

A day after announcing a May 6 byelection date for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, Justin Trudeau visits riding

COLUMN: Smart phone too powerful a tool to yank from students’ hands

Rather than ban them from schools, let’s teach kids to harness their phone’s power and use it properly

B.C. river cleanup crew finds bag of discarded sex toys

Chilliwack volunteers stumble on unexpected find while removing 600 lbs of trash from riverway

Kamloops chamber of commerce director let go after controversial Facebook posts

Facebook account had derogatory comments about Muslims, Justin Trudeau

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Most Read