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Hope sinks

HOPE, B.C. - A political spat between former B.C. Transportation and Highways Minister Harry Lali and Premier Ujjal Dosanjh may have ended more than just Lali's term of office.According to Hope, B.C. ...

HOPE, B.C. – A political spat between former B.C. Transportation and Highways Minister Harry Lali and Premier Ujjal Dosanjh may have ended more than just Lali’s term of office.

According to Hope, B.C. Mayor Gordon Poole, it also cost his municipality funding for roadwork that had already been approved by the former minister.

Poole says Lali, who also headed the B.C. Transportation Financing Authority (BCTFA) before his sudden resignation, had agreed to grant Hope $1.7 million to help refurbish the Old Hope-Princeton Way.

That money suddenly disappeared after Lali’s resignation.

Poole says he was outraged at the NDP government when, as a means of getting back at the renegade former minister, it revoked the funding.

“(Lali) told me himself that when the job was cancelled they were trying to punish him,” says Poole. “I also talked to several bureaucrats over in Victoria and two of them told me straight up – that was the reason it was pulled.”

Poole says it’s unfair to punish the citizens of Hope, especially since work had already begun on the project.

“We estimate that we’ve got about $80,000 invested so far and for a small municipality, when we spend that kind of money and don’t get any return on it, it hurts,” he says.

Following the funding withdrawal, Poole appealed to Dosanjh to reconsider the termination of funding.

“I sent a letter to the Premier saying that we didn’t appreciate the way this thing was dropped and I spelled out the fact that it was because Lali had quit and we got a two line response from him saying that it just didn’t make the cut and he was having somebody else look into it,” says Poole. “Lali blew it for us. If he had just quit and said he wanted to spend more time with his family – which was the second reason he gave – we probably would be doing this project as we speak because it was tender-ready when they yanked it.”

Peter McPherson, communications coordinator for the B.C. Department of Transportation and Highways, says that although Lali may have promised the funding to Poole, it never did go through the necessary procedure for approval.

“It did not receive approval and all projects have to go through an approval process which looks at cost benefit evaluations and a business case analysis,” explains McPherson. “It remains, however, as a project that could be considered in future years.”

“He probably never had the final approval from the BCTFA, but he was assured that the money would be there,” says Poole. “We thought it was crucial to the economy of this area.”

Meanwhile, Hope residents are keeping their fingers crossed that the May 16 election result will bring the project back to life.

“(Liberal candidate) Dave Chutter has said he will certainly bring it up and fight to get the money for it, but he’s certainly not making any promises at this stage,” says Poole. “Talking to Victor York, who is running for the NDP in this riding, he said that he was going to Victoria to try to get the funding put back in place because he didn’t have a chance in this riding without it.” n

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