Nanaimo mayor seeks meeting with premier to boost foot ferry

NANAIMO – Mayor to ask Premier Christy Clark to endorse Island Ferries and prioritize its application for federal money.

Nanaimo’s mayor wants a non-compete agreement and assurances from B.C. Premier Christy Clark that a private passenger-only ferry won’t come under attack by B.C. Ferries.

Mayor Bill McKay plans to meet with the premier during the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention this month in Vancouver to discuss Island Ferries’ proposed foot-ferry service between Nanaimo and Vancouver.

The foot ferry company, which has been searching for final investment since October 2013, hopes to win $14 million from the federal government’s New Building Canada Fund and wants the province to prioritize its project application.

The money would be the impetus for the ferry, according to Dave Marshall, Island Ferries’ spokesman and director of marine operations, who said the federal government is intrigued by the application, but wants to see interest from the province.

McKay will call on Clark to endorse Island Ferries’ service and prioritize its application. He’ll also call for a non-compete agreement that neither the province nor B.C. Ferries will start up a foot ferry, as well as assurances Island Ferries will not be under attack by the company. When a company is getting provincial subsidies, those dollars should not be used to compete against private enterprise, McKay said.

“Imagine what it’d look like if you’re taking a heavily subsidized private, quasi-public organization like B.C. Ferries and you’re trying to compete with them with no subsidy and all of a sudden you find out that … they’re having a half-price passenger sale on and that’s the business you’re in,” he said.

Marshall said the company is hopeful the province will prioritize its application.

“If you are playing dominoes and you put all the dominoes on end, that’s the first domino that kicks over and all of them fall after that. It’s a big deal,” he said of the $14 million.

When asked why Island Ferries should get taxpayer money, Marshall pointed out “the other private ferry company that operates in this province” receives federal and provincial money.

It’s unknown when the meeting will be held with the premier. Todd Stone, B.C. Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, was not made available to comment and his ministry did not respond to questions about the application or the mayor’s requests. The UBCM runs Sept. 21-25.

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