Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald

Election 2015: Conservatives float funding for foot ferry

NANAIMO – The Conservatives announced that if re-elected, they would provide the necessary federal funding to realize Island Ferries' plans.

The Conservative Party is on board with a foot passenger ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

John Duncan, Conservative incumbent for Courtenay-Alberni, and Mark MacDonald, Conservative candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, announced Thursday that their party, if re-elected, would provide the necessary federal funding to realize Island Ferries’ plans.

“I know the transportation challenges that we have,” said Duncan at the announcement at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. “The project makes sense, there’s a strong business case and it has been widely endorsed by municipal governments on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.”

No dollar figure was announced, but Duncan mentioned that Island Ferries is seeking $14 million.

“I consider it a reasonable ask – there’s a huge private-sector investment involved,” he said.

Dave Marshall, Island Ferries spokesman, said 82 per cent of the project’s funding comes from the private sector. He said his company has not approached any other federal political party.

“We still have the election before the funding comes, but this is a significant step,” said Stewart Vinnels, Island Ferries executive. “It’s a significant commitment and we know where our friends are on that.”

The service would be comprised of two 42-metre boats, each capable of ferrying 376 passengers from Nanaimo’s port to Vancouver’s SeaBus terminal in 68 minutes.

MacDonald said the service would appeal to current B.C. Ferries riders, business people and commuters, including, he mentioned, people who could work in Vancouver and then come home and spend their money in Nanaimo.

“[This] is the single biggest immediate project that will have a positive, long-lasting economic impact on Nanaimo, Ladysmith and most of Vancouver Island,” he said.

Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay agreed, suggesting a high-speed passenger ferry could mean as much to the city as coal did once.

“This operation will, without a doubt, provide new capacity and new opportunities from one end of the Island to the other,” he said.

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