An emergency resolution demanding the province renew the Martin Mars water bomber contract was passed at the Union of British Columbia Municipality conference on Thursday.
The last-minute resolution was introduced after the City of Port Alberni and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District had an emergency meeting with Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations officials/
Councillors lobbied them to continue using the 60-year-old plus aircraft, nicknamed Hawaii Mars, which is the largest water bomber in the world.
“They got knowledge from us that the water bomber is an iconic symbol in the Alberni Valley, a source of pride and is a popular tourist attraction,” said Mayor John Douglas, about the meeting.
“And of course, it is a valued resource in fighting forest fires.”
Douglas said the meeting was positive and while ministry officials listened, no promises were made.
As such, a resolution was drafted and almost unanimously approved by UBCM members, made up of civic politicians from throughout the province.
“This demonstrates to the Ministry of Forests and the provincial government how much support the Mars water bomber has in the province,” Douglas said, explaining Coun. Rob Cole presented the motion to the UBCM and that no one spoke against it.
In the spring, the Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations announced that this would be the last year the province would use the Mars water bomber, citing its age and that it is the last aircraft of its kind in operation.
Wayne Coulson, owner of the Coulson Group, which owns the water bomber, was unable to convince the province to change their mind.
Coulson also owns a second Mars water bomber, nicknamed the Philippine Mars.
That aircraft has been retired and in the process of being donated to the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida.
Mayor hopes to lure Seaspan to Alberni’s port
Port Alberni city council is hoping to lure Seaspan into contracting some of their shipbuilding work to Port Alberni, says Mayor John Douglas.
Seaspan is one of the largest marine related business in the world, in involved with barging container ships, ferries and ship building.
The company has a $8 billion ship building contract with the Department of Defence, of which Douglas is hoping to get a slice.
Seaspan chief executive officer Jonathan Whitworth was at the Union of British Columbia Municipality conference last week, where Douglas met with him.
“We updated him what we are doing,” Douglas said,
He further explained that he met with Whitworth two years ago and explained the city’s plans to develop a container trans-shipping facility in Port Alberni.
“It’s quite feasible that we might get some work parcelled out to Port Alberni.”
Douglas posted on his Facebook site that Port Alberni Port Authority CEO Zoran Knezevic and Coun. Dan Washington also attended the meeting with Whitworth.
Douglas also noted in his post that Knezevic was part of a 20-minute “one-issue meeting” with council members and four provincial ministers—deputy premier and Ministery of Natural Gas Development Rich Coleman, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Development Shirley Bond, Minister of International Trade Teresa Watt and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone.
Island RD chairs unhappy at ferry hikes
Taking the ferry will likely cost more next year even though Vancouver Island politicians have voiced their opposition directly to the premier.
Vancouver Island regional district chairs met with premier Christy Clark and transportation minister Todd Stone last week during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities conference in Vancouver. They discussed a UBCM resolution asking the province to not increase fares by the proposed four per cent next year, to not reduce services, and to recognize the ferry service as an extension of the public highway system.
However, there was no budge when it came to fare increases and cuts.
“They are at a loss,” Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chairperson Cindy Solda said, regarding the premier’s and the minister’s response during the meeting. “Premier Christy Clark was honest, saying they are looking at the big picture.”
In June, BC Ferries reported a 1.2 per cent decline in passenger traffic and 1.1 per cent decline in vehicle traffic. However, the Crown corporation reported a profit of $15.5 million after incurring a $9 million loss in the last fiscal year.
Solda figures if fares were cheaper, both traffic and profit would likely pick up.
“People are packing everything in so they can make one trip instead of 10 because it’s so expensive to take the ferry,” Solda said. “Sometimes with volume you make more money.”
Solda added that the regional district chairs suggested that task force be formed to investigate options in keeping the rates down.
— With files from Susan Quinn, Alberni Valley