LNG money won’t stop ferry route cuts

Finance minister says gas industry will help northern B.C. grow again, but transportation minister's ferry plan going ahead

'Service optimization' to reduce under-used ferry sailings is going ahead despite anticipated revenues from gas exports.

Don’t cut BC Ferries service when the province is on the verge of reaping a huge windfall from natural gas in the coming years.

That was the plea from one Union of B.C. Municipalities delegate who sought to link the two issues at a forum on the economy Wednesday.

“Coastal communities can’t afford to wait for that revenue to start coming in,” said Evan Putterill, Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District director for Haida Gwaii and chair of the North and Central Coast Ferry Advisory Committee.

The Sandspit resident said ferry-dependent towns have been badly damaged by two decades of rising fares and further cuts to service now being eyed will make their plight worse.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone agreed fares can’t go higher.

“We can debate whether we’re at the tipping point or nearing the tipping point or past the tipping point, but fares are at the point where they’re not affordable any more,” he said.

But he warned “service optimization” cuts are coming and will be unveiled in the coming months.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong noted new ferries cost hundreds of millions of dollars and asked delegates to indicate by show of hands if government should buy from overseas builders when they’re the low bidder or if local shipyards should win no matter the cost. The room was split.

The ferry question came after de Jong described liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a “generational opportunity” for B.C. that’s estimated to eventually generate government income of $10 billion a year.

Asked if LNG is being oversold, he said the skeptics are wrong.

“People still say ‘It’s mythical, it’s not happening, it’s not real.’ LNG is real and will result in significant additional revenues.”

He said it promises a renaissance for northern B.C., reversing a decades-long trend of depopulation.

Other cabinet ministers at the forum cautioned the gas boom means growing pains for communities and a scramble to recalibrate training programs so workers have the required skills.

Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols urged the province to seek ways to make it more attractive for coal and gas workers to move to towns in the northeast rather than work in camps without becoming part of the fabric of local life.

“If you sit in any flight from Fort St. John back to the Lower Mainland, you’re going to be sitting beside somebody who’s going home, taking home the paycheque after living in camp in the last two or three weeks,” Nichols said.

Asked about UBCM’s unanimous call for government to commit to systematically sharing its revenue with cities in strong years, De Jong noted that other options include paying down debt or reducing taxes.

He also said B.C. has been modestly sharing forestry resource revenue for years through agreements with local communities.

 

Just Posted

Art takes a personal tone during the 110th anniversary of the Victoria Sketch Club

The 47th annual art show is taking place until March 24

How a scrawny kid from Oak Bay bulked into one of rugby sevens’ best

Doing it for Dylan, Oak Bay’s Connor Braid at the top of his game

Victoria BC Transit driver taken to hospital after assault

Driver attempted to stop an altercation between two people on the bus

Royal Bay drama students help police train for emergency

Students helped train crisis negotiators by acting out scenarios

CRD’s 2019 financial plan includes 23 per cent increase for capital projects

Housing, health care and wastewater projects included in 2019 plan

VIDEO: Restaurant robots are already in Canada

Robo Sushi in Toronto has waist-high robots that guide patrons to empty seats

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

Short list for new gnome home includes Parksville, Coombs

Five potential locations have been chosen by Howard’s owners who will decide Tuesday

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Most Read