Transportation minister nixes suggestion to cut Nanaimo ferry route

NANAIMO – Efficiency report examining cost-saving measures, suggests foot-passenger service.

The provincial transportation minister said he doesn’t support the elimination of B.C. Ferries’ Nanaimo-to-Horseshoe Bay route or replacing it with passenger-only service.

Todd Stone said Wednesday afternoon that he has been consistent for the past year that he does not support consolidation of Nanaimo’s two ferry terminals at Departure Bay and Duke Point.

“I indicated yesterday that while we weren’t endorsing or supporting the idea, it may be worthy of consideration,” Stone said by phone from Regina. “Over the last 24 hours, I’ve had some very good conversations with my Island colleagues, Don McRae (Comox Valley) and Michelle Stilwell (Parksville-Qualicum) as well as my pariliamentary secretary Jordan Sturdy (West Vancouver-Sea to Sky). They’ve made some very strong and eloquent arguments to me that they don’t believe closing one of the two terminals at Nanaimo would be a good thing, not just for the economy of Nanaimo, but potentially the economy of the mid-Island.”

An efficiency strategy from B.C. Ferries, released Sept. 30, suggested the route cuts as well as a passenger-only service between Nanaimo and Vancouver – a business venture already in the works from private company Island Ferries.

Dave Marshall, Island Ferries’ director of operations, said the company is willing to talk to B.C. Ferries, although no meeting is scheduled.

“What we’re doing is we’re intent on establishing a passenger-only service between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver and that provides transportation choice for people, some of whom currently make use of B.C. Ferries,” said Marshall.

“B.C. Ferries has a reduction challenge ahead of it – that’s very, very clear – and so the establishment of our service may actually benefit those of us that travel between Vancouver Island and Vancouver as they grapple with their problems,” he said.

B.C. Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan said both Nanaimo terminals have to be examined for efficiency and how better to use those assets.

“Essentially, the two Nanaimo routes together carry approximately the same amount of traffic as a single route does that serves Victoria to Vancouver and in fact, in the winter, there’s twice as many ships providing the service on the mid-Island corridor routes, i.e. the Nanaimo routes, than there are out of … the Schwartz Bay to Tsawwassen runs,” he said.

Corrigan added that for a majority of the day, ships leave at approximately the same time from both Nanaimo terminals.

B.C. Ferries has filed the efficiency strategy documents with Gordon Macatee, commissioner of B.C. Ferries. A timetable has not been set for community consultation.

“I think it’s premature right now until we get through the commissioner’s process, but the earliest will be after the commissioner makes his preliminary finding, which is not until March of next year,” Corrigan said.

– with files from Tom Fletcher