Editorial: Federal review is one part of a port solution

We shouldn’t expect that it will be any kind of be-all and end-all

By rights, the Harbour City should be a bustling port city.

So a Transport Canada review of port authorities across the country is welcome news for Nanaimo, though we shouldn’t expect that it will be any kind of be-all and end-all solution.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced last week in Delta that all 18 of the nation’s port authorities would be reviewed through stakeholder engagement. The process will include discussion with all levels of government, First Nations and other interests, though the full extent of the review isn’t clear and it’s not known yet whether Transport Canada will be poring over the books in each port city or looking to come up with more broad-strokes recommendations.

The federal review, in a way, overlaps with a process that’s already happening in Nanaimo. The Nanaimo Marina Association is seeking a new body to replace the Nanaimo Port Authority and the Snuneymuxw First Nation has taken some leadership in advancing those discussions. The port authority, meanwhile, helmed by a new CEO, has launched its own public engagement.

Probably, the different sides have some common visions of what they might like the port to be. There must exist some sort of balance between a busy, thriving port that attracts cruise traffic and commerce, that deals fairly and reasonably with local business and other clients, and respects First Nations treaty rights and the environment.

The federal government has been approached as a mediator before and it will be interesting to see and read into whatever recommendations eventually come from this new process.

A challenge for Transport Canada is that the country’s ports only have so much in common. What works somewhere else might work here, or it might not.

Those who wish to replace the Nanaimo Port Authority want a made-in-Nanaimo solution. The port authority itself offers a made-in-Nanaimo solution, too.

So a review will have value, but what’s needed more is people who have a vision for Nanaimo’s port, and who care about it.

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