South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts – who, as mayor of Surrey, reopened the topic of relocating BNSF’s rail corridor off the waterfront – is pushing for continued dialogue with the railway company on ways “of moving things foward” to improve the safety of the route.
And while the recent report of the House of Commons Standing Committee of Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities – of which Watts is a member – suggested that a traffic underpass beneath the BNSF line in Crescent Beach would be a cheaper alternative to deal with one of the major safety issues in the corridor, Watts said she does not believe examining that idea would take relocation of the line off the table.
“I would prefer to have a broader discussion in terms of what the options are,” she told Peace Arch News.
“I don’t want to preclude anything.”
The Conservative MP said she plans to schedule a meeting with BNSF executives and community stakeholders before the end of summer, so that she is armed with more information in time for the resumption of discussion of the standing committee report, tabled before Parliament adjourned.
“When we (the committee) come back in the fall, we’ll be doing a more in-depth review,” she said.
Watts said that when U.S.-based BNSF executives testified before the all-party committee earlier this year, “they were very open to facilitating discussion – making sure they could do everything that could be done in working with the community.”
Among the recommendations of the report were a tightening of safety requirements for railway companies operating across Canada, Watts noted – including a need for more open lines of communications between the companies and the communities through which their lines travel.
And it appears the companies – BNSF included – are taking the increased federal scrutiny seriously, she said.
“Any time you’re looking at a railway company coming before a parliamentary committee, it takes (discussion) to a different level.”
Watts, who is opposition critic for infrastructure and communities, was also canvassing members of the community on a different issue – national defence policy – in a roundtable discussion held July 6 at the Royal Canadian Legion Crescent Branch 240 in South Surrey.
The 23 invited attendees – who included local members of the military, RCMP, veterans, aerospace industry organizations and border security communities (White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin told council Monday he was a participant)– were part of a non-partisan defence policy review being conducted by MPs across the country, Watts said.
“This will go back to an all-party committee on defence which will be gathering in formation by the end of July,” she said.
“We have a number of stakeholders in the community with a knowledge of the realities of defence – including veterans of past wars, and people concerned with the security of our borders in the far north, as well as search and rescue issues.”
Of concern, Watts said, was the removal of $3.7 billion from the defence budget when the Liberal government tabled its first budget in March of this year.
“I heard unanimous agreement on a number of issues,” she said.
“In particular, (I heard) the defence budget clearly needs to be increased to, first, meet our NATO commitments, and, second, to provide the military with the resources they require to do their jobs.”
To review the presentation, visit www.diannewattsmp.ca