VANCOUVER — British Columbia's Liberals and New Democrats took a long-running dispute over how to build a replacement for the George Massey Tunnel in Metro Vancouver to the campaign trail Monday.
The Liberals and NDP have both said the 629-metre, four-lane tunnel underneath the Fraser River, which was opened to traffic in 1959 by the Queen, should be in line for replacement, but the project has remained stalled.
Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson resurrected the previous Liberal government's plan Monday to build a 10-lane bridge over the Fraser River to replace the aging Massey Tunnel.
Wilkinson said the Liberals, if elected on Oct. 24, would dump an eight-lane tunnel proposal and start immediate construction of the 10-lane bridge instead.
The bridge project would relieve the largest traffic bottleneck in Western Canada, he said.
The New Democrat government cancelled the former government's bridge proposal shortly after taking office in 2017.
The NDP government still hasn't officially revealed its plans on replacing the 61-year-old tunnel, although Premier John Horgan said in May 2019 that a twin-tunnel proposal was getting consideration from his government.
Metro Vancouver mayors released a joint letter at the time asking the government to help with the "terrible bottleneck." Horgan said the mayors appeared united in their support for a tunnel that would be less costly, faster to build and would not require tolls.
But Wilkinson said the Liberals still support a bridge.
“The people stuck in traffic at the Massey Tunnel on a daily basis for up to an hour in each direction can look forward to the restart of the construction of the bridge replacement for the Massey Tunnel,” Wilkinson said Monday at a news conference.
Ravi Kahlon, the NDP legislature member for North Delta, said the NDP's plans for a new toll-free crossing are well underway, with the government on track for its final approval by the end of the year, although details of the plan have not been released.
"The B.C. Liberals want to completely change course, risking major delays, risking federal financing and setting the project back years."
Wilkinson said the bridge proposed by the Liberals when they were in government in 2013 has already been through an environmental assessment and could be restarted again quickly, unlike a twin-tunnel project.
“The NDP’s plans include the prospect of 10 years of litigation with the Tsawwassen First Nation, the risk of destroying the Pacific salmon migration through the Fraser River. Their plan is for delay and for never getting this problem addressed.”
Wilkinson said the toll-free bridge project will be part of a Liberal government's $8-billion plan for capital projects, but he didn't know when the toll-free bridge would be complete.
The Greens focused on mental health Monday, promising to spend $1 billion to ensure services are more completely covered by B.C.'s medical services plan.
Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said providing more complete and available mental health services for all people will result in healthier and more fulfilling lives.
"Mental health issues are affecting increasing numbers of British Columbians, and we need to treat it like any other health issue by properly resourcing it in our public system," Furstenau said in a news release.
— By Dirk Meissner in Victoria.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 5, 2020.
The Canadian Press