LNG money won’t stop ferry route cuts

Finance minister says gas industry will help northern B.C. grow again, but transportation minister's ferry plan going ahead

'Service optimization' to reduce under-used ferry sailings is going ahead despite anticipated revenues from gas exports.

Don’t cut BC Ferries service when the province is on the verge of reaping a huge windfall from natural gas in the coming years.

That was the plea from one Union of B.C. Municipalities delegate who sought to link the two issues at a forum on the economy Wednesday.

“Coastal communities can’t afford to wait for that revenue to start coming in,” said Evan Putterill, Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District director for Haida Gwaii and chair of the North and Central Coast Ferry Advisory Committee.

The Sandspit resident said ferry-dependent towns have been badly damaged by two decades of rising fares and further cuts to service now being eyed will make their plight worse.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone agreed fares can’t go higher.

“We can debate whether we’re at the tipping point or nearing the tipping point or past the tipping point, but fares are at the point where they’re not affordable any more,” he said.

But he warned “service optimization” cuts are coming and will be unveiled in the coming months.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong noted new ferries cost hundreds of millions of dollars and asked delegates to indicate by show of hands if government should buy from overseas builders when they’re the low bidder or if local shipyards should win no matter the cost. The room was split.

The ferry question came after de Jong described liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a “generational opportunity” for B.C. that’s estimated to eventually generate government income of $10 billion a year.

Asked if LNG is being oversold, he said the skeptics are wrong.

“People still say ‘It’s mythical, it’s not happening, it’s not real.’ LNG is real and will result in significant additional revenues.”

He said it promises a renaissance for northern B.C., reversing a decades-long trend of depopulation.

Other cabinet ministers at the forum cautioned the gas boom means growing pains for communities and a scramble to recalibrate training programs so workers have the required skills.

Chetwynd Mayor Merlin Nichols urged the province to seek ways to make it more attractive for coal and gas workers to move to towns in the northeast rather than work in camps without becoming part of the fabric of local life.

“If you sit in any flight from Fort St. John back to the Lower Mainland, you’re going to be sitting beside somebody who’s going home, taking home the paycheque after living in camp in the last two or three weeks,” Nichols said.

Asked about UBCM’s unanimous call for government to commit to systematically sharing its revenue with cities in strong years, De Jong noted that other options include paying down debt or reducing taxes.

He also said B.C. has been modestly sharing forestry resource revenue for years through agreements with local communities.

 

Just Posted

BUSINESS BEAT: New entrepreneurs investing in Port Alberni

Portal Curios and Oddities opening in Harbour Quay

Saanich man, passenger escape injury in Mt Arrowsmith rollover

A visitor from the South Island escaped injury after rolling his SUV… Continue reading

Port Alberni residents, city council divided on rules for cannabis stores

Public speaks up about pot at committee of the whole meeting

Port Alberni RCMP officers honoured for bravery

Five faced ‘violent, deranged’ male during break-in

Alberni Valley Bulldogs battle against top teams in the BCHL

Bulldogs split weekend games against Spruce Kings, Chiefs

VIDEO: B.C. legislature clerk, sergeant at arms suspended for criminal investigation

Clerk of the House Craig James, Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz on administrative leave

Trial: Witness describes encounter with accused murderer while tending to fatally injured Descoteau

Wright said he was working in his yard when he heard a woman screaming.

Former NHL player and coach Dan Maloney dies at 68

Maloney coached the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets

Ex-MSU president charged with lying to police about Nassar

Lou Anna Simon was charged Tuesday with lying to police during an investigation

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

Otter makes a snack out of koi fish in Vancouver Chinese garden

Staff say the otter has eaten at least five fish

Police looking into two more incidents at private Toronto all-boys’ school

Police and the school have said two of the prior incidents involved an alleged sexual assault

B.C. lumber mills struggle with shortage of logs, price slump

Signs of recovery after U.S. market swings, industry executive says

25% of Canadians still won’t say they use pot, survey says

Statistics Canada poll says Canadians on average were 18.9 years old when they first tried pot.

Most Read