NANAIMO (NEWS1130) – The BC government and BC Ferries have quietly been considering getting rid of one of the routes from Nanaimo to the mainland.
BC Ferries has made a submission to the Independent Ferries Commissioner suggesting a good way to save money would be closing the Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo and making the Tsawwassen terminal the main hub for travel to the Island.
BC Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan says none of this is a done deal. “We’ve scoped out a plan that we need to go out and consulte with people on the way forward. We need to talk to communities, business associations, our customers and everyone else before we can do anything. This is, realistically, five years out before we could even start implementing any of this.”
“We need to be absolutely sure that we do this properly, which is why we filed the overarching plan with the commissioner and now we have to go out an do the consultation that’s going to be required over the next period of time,” he adds.
NDP Transportation Critic Claire Travena says the idea came up last year. “At the time, the minister of transportation was pretty vociferous in his denial that it could ever take place. But, it’s clearly a thought that is very strong in BC Ferries ideas of using one terminal at Nanaimo and focusing on the Tsawwassen terminal down in the Lower Mainland. You’ve got the South Fraser Perimeter Road now, it links to the Trans Canada going east or you can link in going south on 99.”
Travena says proper process involves the commissioner examining the request, who will then pass along his recommendation to Transportation Minister Todd Stone. “That’s why the minister can stand back and say ‘it isn’t my business, it can’t get involved.’ I would hope he [Stone] would have a serious consideration about this. One of the reasons it’s being raised is because it links back to the Horseshoe Bay terminal which needs major capital investment.”
OMNI TV political analyst says the question of needing two ferry terminals in Nanaimo has been ongoing for awhile. “What’s new here is the Horseshoe Bay component and whether they would eliminate, entirely, a route from Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay.”
He says it’s a problem area for getting cars in and out. “There will always be, according to BC Ferries, a terminal at Horseshoe Bay, but, it really may only end up serving some of the smaller islands in the future. The main route would be from Duke Point to Tsawwassen.”
“You got some problems there. Do the people want of Tsawwassen want that extra traffic going through there? Do the people of Vancouver want that extra traffic from all the people going up to Whistler or West Vancouver, going through the city? What about all the trucking traffic that would have to go that way?”
Emerson says the government has been looking at always to cut costs at BC Ferries because ridership has been on a downslide. “Now they are looking at every possible cost-saving measure that they can have. There’s hundreds of millions of dollars that would need to be spent at Horseshoe Bay to make the docking system more modern.”
He adds Minister Stone has said the issue wouldn’t be going to public consultation until 2015.
West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith thinks less ferry traffic wouldn’t be good for local shops and restaurants. “The bad news is that it would be very hard on the commercial businesses on Horseshoe Bay that rely on passengers that use the ferries to shop and dine in their establishments.”
Holly Kemp with the Horseshoe Bay Business Association is worried the tourist stop will become a “ghost town” if the changes are implemented. “The village of Horseshoe Bay is likely to die. You know, there are 3.3 million travellers that come through Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and most of those travellers do visit the village.”
Kemp who is also the owner of Troll’s Restaurant and is very concerned about the impact on her bottom-line. “I could survive but it would be in a much smaller level than what I’m operating at right now and I just don’t think that some of the smaller businesses would survive.” Another downside, she says it would take people living in West Vancouver up to six hours just to get to the island.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson is worried about a potential traffic mess. “Where on earth are they going to go here? They can’t disgorge all these people and expect a community to try to absorb that amount of people,” she questions.
Jackson believes BC Ferries is losing its focus. “It’s got to be for the people of this province. I think that they should be looking for deeply into what their mandate is and what their impact is on local government.” She says Delta hasn’t been able to speak with BC Ferries or its board to find out about its plans.