NDP promises to open up federal funding for ferries

Sounder News

Wednesday, October 14 2015

This past Monday, October 5, Nanaimo-Ladysmith NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson announced 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 BC,” 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.

“Skyrocketing fare increases and service cuts from BC Ferries need to be addressed at a federal level. 

“Ferries are the transportation backbone of Vancouver Island, and people in our communities depend on them for travel, work, jobs and our economy. It’s time to end ten years of Conservative neglect.”

Malcolmson noted that earlier this month, outgoing Harper Minister John Duncan insisted that Ottawa would never consider support for the BC ferry system. 

“Islanders have had enough of this neglect from the Conservative government,” said Malcolmson. “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. During this election I have heard again and again from people and businesses here that fare hikes are hurting the local economy. Tom Mulcair and the NDP have a real plan to support and protect BC’s coastal communities.”

In addition to ensuring that ferry infrastructure is an eligible category under the New Building Canada Fund, an NDP Government will ensure that recreation, cultural and tourist infrastructure projects are also eligible for federal funding. This additional change will also help create jobs and will support communities’ priorities.

Mark MacDonald, Conservative candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, said in response to Maclolmson’s release, “It is important to note that BC Ferries is a provincial entity started way back under former Social Credit Premier W.A.C. Bennett, and the federal government doesn’t meddle in affairs under provincial jurisdiction. BC Ferries is completely the province of BC’s responsibility, although BC Ferries can, as stated, apply for other infrastructure funding through the Build Canada Fund.

“The federal government will continue to provide its $28 million plus annual funding for BC Ferries, which I view as a subsidy commitment to fund the portion of the Trans-Canada Highway from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay.

“The Conservative Government has already said that BC Ferries is eligible for Build Canada funding for all their shore-based facilities. BC Ferries has also already received significant funding through the Gas Tax Fund and Stimulus Spending. 

“Most importantly, a newly elected Conservative Government will provide financial backing for a new downtown Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver foot passenger ferry without provincial participation so far, and this will provide significant jobs and investment in Central Vancouver Island. This was a project I personally worked on for the past 18 months to help bring it to fruition.”

Asked what he thought of the Conservatives deciding to make BC Ferries ineligible for the infrastructure funding, Green Party candidate Paul Manly said, “I think that’s ridiculous. BC Ferries are a significant infrastructure for the area and the province. That’s one of the criteria for the fund; they should be eligible for that. And I would support and lobby for that.”

“We [the Green Party] think there should be a better subsidy for the Trans-Canada highway - that’s a federal responsibility - the route between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay is a huge toll on the Trans-Canada that needs to be rectified. 

“We put all kinds of infrastructure money in to all kinds of pavement across the country. 

“Highway 1 between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay is part of that and should be funded.”

Liberal candidate Tim Tessier had not responded to the Sounder’s emails prior to press time. If answers are provided prior to Election Day, they will be added to the online version of this story at Soundernews.com.