Nanaimo-Ladysmith candidates support foot ferry, Island rail

NANAIMO – Federal party candidates target infrastructure priorities for Nanaimo region.

Nanaimo-Ladysmith federal election candidates see major infrastructure projects, such as the foot passenger ferry and passenger rail as priorities for the region.

Paul Manly, Green Party candidate, said a foot passenger ferry will be viable if it’s fast and inexpensive, but all ferry services here should receive federal government subsidies as in the Maritime provinces.

“Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland have a good ferry subsidy based on their deal with Confederation,” Manly said.

Tim Tessier, Liberal candidate, said ferry service to the mainland is “our highway” and is among a growing number of commuters who represent a changing model for ferry service that provincial and federal governments and private business should be partnering to make happen.

“While I love taking the ferry out of here and its a wonderful ride, it’s a model that was designed decades ago and we have to move forward,” Tessier said.

A foot ferry dock represents an important transportation hub to other public transport, said Sheila Malcolmson, NDP candidate.

“If it’s a private ferry, then it’s an easy one for the federal government to partner with the city on the dock infrastructure and especially this transportation hub,” Malcolmson said.

Mark McDonald, Conservative Party candidate, said he has worked to help raise funding for Island Ferry Services’ $63-million project since 2013 as Nanaimo Daily News managing editor.

“I believe, as far as infrastructure goes, that this is the single most important thing that would benefit the economy in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding,” MacDonald said.

Tessier also agrees with Manly and Malcolmson that Island passenger rail is viable and important to the economy, tourism and to future public transit, but added the high costs of refurbishing the entire E&N line means it will likely have to be done in stages.

Malcolmson said there is strong support for a public transportation system “to help us deal with climate change into the future.”

Manly said arguments against the service are based on previous scheduling, which ran as a tourism, rather than a commuter, service.

McDonald said Island passenger rail is only viable if subsidized by commercial rail traffic and the Island Corridor Foundation, which owns the track and stations, needs to present a workable business plan.