Lali commits to work with local anglers on road access issues
Fraser-Nicola MLA Harry Lali and those fighting the Douglas Lake Cattle Co. for public access to Stoney Lake joined forces Wednesday to devise a plan to force the Liberal government into action.
Douglas Lake Ranch has blocked public access to the lake on what many — including a former provincial highways engineer — say is a public road.
Now, anglers from throughout the Nicola Valley are calling upon Lali to lead their fight to the BC Legislature.
Attempts to sway the Liberals into action have been largely ignored, despite evidence that anglers said proves the road is public.
The anglers have said the Liberals failed to recognize that the locked portion now blocked with logs even exists.
While Lali didn’t say whether he thinks the road is public or private, he noted the matter is a provincial concern. The road is just one public route in the province that is blocked by corporations, he said.
“I am going to be talking to my colleagues to see if we can make this a provincial fight,” Lali announced. “That way people in different parts of the province are working together and sharing information, and I think that’s a step that needs to take place.”
But after the cancellation of this fall’s session of the legislature and an anticipated quick spring session due to the scheduled May 14 election, Lali said he is doubtful any new legislation will soon be considered in Victoria.
“These roads are slowly, but surely, being taken over by private corporations,” he said. “Regardless of what happens at election time, I am committed to working with you guys to make sure public roads are accessible to the public.”
He said the group needs to keep attracting media attention by organizing protests, public meetings and by speaking with government officials.
Local governments may also become involved if the blocked lakes are affecting tourism, he added.
Lali had faced criticism in “Letters to the Editor” for not being more involved in the fight for access. However, he said he lacked participation because he was on vacation in India.
“Once you start attacking me, you’re harming your own purpose,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that these letters started coming out and I obviously couldn’t respond to any of them at that time. The fact of the matter is they have done more damage than they have done good.”
The meeting was facilitated by the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club at the Phelan Seniors Complex.
Charging the fight is former provincial highways engineer Rick McGowan, who requested Lali speak.
“We have two options: legal action in the Supreme Court of Canada to fight this, which we all know is going to cost a lot of money,” McGowan said. “The other possibility is in the political arena; we could possibly win this without an extensive court case.”
McGowan said he hopes for an NDP win in May’s election and he is optimistic Lali would be given a cabinet position.
“Right now [the government] won’t talk to us, they won’t listen to us and they are in fact lying to us,” he said. “We have a hell of an opportunity with next year’s election. Doing nothing will mean more locked land in British Columbia.”
Merritt Herald phone calls requesting Ministry of Transportation comment about the status of the locked stretch of Pennask Lake Road haven’t been returned.
Douglas Lake Cattle Co. Ranch Manager Joe Gardner is also not returning phone calls.