Provincial gov’t caucus meeting this week in Parksville Qualicum Beach

The future of passenger rail service may be one of the topics explored by B.C. Liberal MLAs

Add host and tour guide to the list of duties this week for provincial cabinet minister and Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell.

The B.C. Liberal caucus is meeting today through Thursday in the region. Stilwell said these retreats are a chance for the governing party to “look at our priorities and planning for the following year.”

Stilwell, the minister of Social Development and Social Innovation, said between meetings she is going to lead some of her colleagues on tours of both the Oceanside Health Centre and the Society of Organized Services (SOS).

“I really want to show (other MLAs) a successful social enterprise,” Stilwell said about the SOS. “It is unique in many ways in its extent and its success.”

The caucus will meet Wednesday at Tigh-Na-Mara. There’s a B.C. Liberal Party event planned for a local golf course that evening, followed by a breakfast Thursday morning jointly hosted by the chambers of commerce for Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo, where Premier Christy Clark will be the keynote speaker. Tickets for this chamber-members-only breakfast at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre were still available Monday morning — contact the chambers for more information.

Stilwell said having caucus members in Parksville Qualicum Beach could bring some focus to Mid-Island issues for the governing party. The B.C. Liberals hold 49 of the Legislature’s 85 seats. Only two of the 14 seats on Vancouver Island are occupied by B.C. Liberals (Stilwell and Comox’s Don McRae).

“Certainly just having everyone here will show first-hand what the issues are,” said Stilwell.

One possible topic of discussion for caucus this week would be the future of rail service on Vancouver Island. A government report obtained by Victoria radio station CFAX suggests the $15-$20 million allocated for track improvement by the Island Corridor Foundation is not enough to re-start passenger rail service safely.

According to a story on CFAX’s website, the NDP MLA for Nanaimo-North Cowichan, Doug Routley, said his party wants to see an expert review committee established to create a business plan in a more accountable manner.

Stilwell told The NEWS the rail issue for her has always been about safety. “I’ve always said from Day One that safety is the priority,” said Stilwell, who also added her view of what’s next for the ICF. “It’s getting to a point now the ICF is going to have to make some decisions on where they are going to go.”

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