Vancouver Island and North Coast NDP MPs are calling on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to allow BC Ferries access to federal infrastructure grant funding.
“BC Ferries is a critical transportation link for Island residents but years of dramatic fare increases have had a devastating impact on our coastal communities,” said Murray Rankin, MP for Victoria.
“The coastal ferry system is a key transportation link like roads and bridges and should be treated the same when it comes to federal infrastructure grants.”
All of Vancouver Island’s MPs, including Sheila Malcolmson in Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Alistair MacGregor in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, have added their names to the request.
Malcolmson and MacGregor both called for access to infrastructure funding during the September-October federal election campaign. “We will make ferry infrastructure, including terminals and fleets, an eligible category for federal funding under the New Building Canada Fund,” Malcolmson said.
Conservative candidate Mark MacDonald said during the campaign that BC Ferries “is eligible for Build Canada funding for all their shore-based facilities.”
But the post-election call for infrastructure funding urges the Liberal government to take a new tack. “The former Conservative government stood by while ferry fares skyrocketed for Island residents,” Rankin said. “We are reaching out to this new government and asking them to demonstrate an understanding of the challenges facing our coastal communities.”
This could be a test of the Liberal promise to treat regions like Vancouver Island, which have not elected Liberals to the House of Commons, fairly.
Comparisons have been made between the heavily subsidized ferry routes on the east coast, but those subsidies have been claimed as an obligation because they are interprovincial, whereas BC Ferries’ routes are not.
In his response to a Chronicle question about infrastructure funding Liberal candidate Tim Tessier did not mention BC Ferries among the projects and services that might be funded.
The Chronicle has asked for clarification from the NDP on several points, including:
• How much funding they think might be available for BC Ferries through federal infrastructure grants;
• If the Province of British Columbia supports the use of federal infrastructure funding for BC Ferries projects;
• If there should be restrictions on the types of projects funded, since part of the Liberal rationale for infrastructure investments is job creation in Canada.