Studies into a high-speed rail link between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver could also be a key element in relocating heavy freight and dangerous goods traffic off White Rock and South Surrey’s waterfront, says MP Gordie Hogg. File photo

High-speed rail ‘could help relocation’: South Surrey-White Rock MP

Gordie Hogg talks trains, firearms and controversial summer-jobs program

South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg says he is encouraged following a recent meeting with B.C. Premier John Horgan that there is a chance for meaningful forward progress on relocating rail traffic away from waterfront areas in the riding.

Hogg – who was in Victoria last week to meet with Horgan and provincial ministers and MLAs – noted in particular Horgan’s subsequent announcement that the province will chip in $300,000 towards a U.S. business-case study of a high-speed rail link between Portland, Ore. and Vancouver.

“I met with (Horgan) last Wednesday and one of the issues we talked about was the feasibility and potential of the railway link from Portland to Vancouver and the possibility of connecting the current review of rail transportation (on the Semiahmoo Peninsula) with that,” he said in a broad-ranging phone interview from Ottawa with Peace Arch News Wednesday that addressed rail, new firearms rules and controversial changes to the federal summer-jobs program.

“They would be looking at what the best route would be, and I thought that was a good opportunity (for us),” he said.

While noting that the proposed high-speed route might operate on a different system – such as ‘maglev’ (or magnetically-induced levitation) – than the basic track currently used for moving heavy freight, coal and dangerous goods through the Peninsula, Hogg said that as a “most feasible and reasonable route” is being investigated, it would make sense for the same corridor to carry freight traffic.

“A parallel route would be a possibility,” he added. “There are only a few places that seem workable, and along Highway 99 is one of them – I don’t think anyone wants it moved to more residential areas.”

In the conversation on current issues, the former MLA, who won the riding handily for the federal Liberals in December’s byelection, also talked about the government’s move to take Canada Summer Job program funding away from community organizations opposed to abortion.

Hogg said he and other MPs have heard “lots about it” since the measure was announced in December, adding that he has talked with a number of churches and ministerial associations concerned about the new rule, which requires groups to sign an attestation that they respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to be eligible for the program.

Hogg said that while he believes the government did the right thing – and most of the groups he spoke with did sign an attestation before applying for for summer job funding – “we could have been clearer in what we said.”

“The principle was right, but the way it was expressed was offensive to some groups.

“In the past, (summer job funding) has been used for political purposes counter to the Charter of Rights,” Hogg said. “I don’t think taxpayers want their money going to that.”

The government wanted to take a strong stand, he noted, but “attestation was frightening to a lot of people, who felt it challenged their values.”

He added that he will be among other MPs pushing for a rewording of the rule.

He says he has received little feedback at present in the riding about another government move, announced Tuesday, to beef up Canada’s firearms law with enhanced background checks for owners and mandatory record-keeping for vendors.

“I think I had three calls, two from people who were in favour and one who had concerns,” Hogg said. “But it’s early yet – I’ll be delighted to hear more feedback and comment. I think the majority of people are in favour of this, but maybe in rural areas this will be a little more controversial.”

Hogg acknowledged that the measure is raising the ire of some critics who claim it is a return to the controversial ‘long-gun’ registry, but under a different guise.

Yet he said he feels there can be little doubt that Canada’s firearms law has proven helpful in reducing crime, while noting B.C. statistics on firearm deaths have “dropped dramatically – they’re the lowest in Canada.”

“Compared with what is happening in the U.S., the juxtaposition is very favourable to Canada,” he said. “Per capita, we’re far better off (in terms of firearm deaths) than most jurisdictions in the world.

“I don’t think individual rights (to own weapons) supercede the collective right of society to be protected.”

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