New Democratic candidate in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding Sheila Malcolmson announced Monday, Oct. 5, that an NDP government would allow BC Ferries and the province of British Columbia to access federal funding for ferry infrastructure, terminals, fleet upgrades and new vessels.
“The Harper Conservatives have prevented BC Ferries from accessing basic infrastructure funding that would help reduce ferry costs for B.C.,” said Malcolmson.
“Tom Mulcair and the NDP will end Harper’s unfair policy that is hurting our coastal communities such as Nanaimo. We will make ferry infrastructure, including terminals and fleets, an eligible category for federal funding under the New Building Canada Fund.”
Green candidate Paul Manly also believes BC Ferries should be funded, and that it would be an appropriate use of New Building Canada funds.
“I don’t see why BC Ferries shouldn’t be able to apply to that fund for infrastructure,” he said, noting that the Trans Canada highway ends in Victoria, not on the Lower Mainland.
“We have a national highway, and it’s part of our national road infrastructure, and the federal government should have a part in funding that infrastructure,” he said.
Conservative candidate Mark MacDonald said BC Ferries is already eligible for funding, and has received millions. “The Conservative government will continue its $30 million annual funding for BC Ferries, and has already said that BC Ferries is eligible for Build Canada funding for all their shore-based facilities,” he said.
He also noted that he and Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan recently committed to supporting foot passenger service between Nanaimo and Vancouver. “A newly elected Conservative government will provide financial backing for a new downtown Nanaimo-downtown Vancouver foot passenger ferry without provincial participation so far, and this will provide significant jobs and investment in Central Vancouver Island,” MacDonald said.
Commitments to improved ferry service will be welcomed by Island communities, and particularly those served by minor routes, which have been hard hit by increased ferry rates.
In his most recent report, last month, BC Ferries Commissioner Gord Macatee said increases in fares for BC Ferries will be capped at 1.9 percent per year between 2016 and 2020.
B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone called the decision ‘good news, noting that the increases were the lowest since 2003.
Many ferry users may feel differently, however, especially those using Gulf Island routes, where fares have increased at a rate four or five times that of inflation according to a study commissioned by the Islands Trust.
Malcolmson said rates are out of line, and that it’s time for the federal government to help. “Skyrocketing fare increases and service cuts from BC Ferries need to be addressed at a federal level,” she said.
“Ferries are the transportation backbone of Vancouver Island and people in our communities depend on them for travel, work, jobs and our economy.”
Ferry services on the east coast are often subsidized by the federal government because they are inter-provincial, whereas BC Ferries routes run within the province.
“Islanders have had enough of this neglect from the Conservative government,” she said. “As Chair of the Islands Trust Council, I spent six years pushing for improved ferry service and keeping ferry costs affordable for area residents and tourists.”