One of the highlights of the week in the Legislature was the Minister of Transportation’s extraordinarily rapid U-turn on the future of the Nanaimo-Horseshoe Bay ferry run. If he’d been in a car, there would have been tire marks on the pavement.
The Ferry Commissioner has been seeking input on plans by BC Ferries for the coming years. Among those plans was the possibility of cutting the Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay route. Back in March, when rumours about this were swirling, the Minister denied any such plans. But on Tuesday this week he said the BC Liberals would look at closing Departure Bay and cutting the current service. After a province-wide outcry — and questions from me in the Legislature — he backtracked and is now saying that the government is committed to both Nanaimo routes and that the Horseshoe Bay run is “iconic”.
My only fear is that the Minister will now use this as an excuse to raise the fares yet again, claiming it is necessary to cover the estimated $200-million bill to fix the Horseshoe Bay terminal. The Minister and the BC Liberals still don’t understand that ferries are both part of the provincial infrastructure as well as a transportation system. No one expects roads or buses to turn a profit, but the message is very different for BC Ferries and the provincial economic repercussions are huge.
The repercussions of not getting the tax framework right for liquefied natural gas are also huge for the province. We came back to the Legislature this fall to discuss that tax regime, but Bill 6 which introduces the LNG Income Tax shows the BC Liberals have got it very wrong. The bill before us now has the tax at 3.5 per cent, not the 7 per cent initially promised, and that only coming into effect in 2037. Up to then it’s going to be 1.5 per cent and there are huge loopholes for companies to get tax breaks on everything from their pre-construction costs, such as land acquisition, through to writing off the 1.5 per cent against the 3.5 per cent rate (complicated, but true).
I spoke about this in the Legislature, accusing the BC Liberals of bowing to the pressure of the multinational corporations that run the industry and effectively selling out the province. If we are going to develop the LNG we need to have some standards. We already know that the BC Liberals are cutting corners on environmental aspects and emission controls which is particularly troubling given that earlier this week the latest UN report on global warming was published containing blunt warnings about climate change and the absolute necessity to take action now. And there are other aspects of the BC Liberals approach to LNG development that raise concerns. We need to make sure that people from BC get the training and get the jobs that will flow from the industry. We need to ensure that First Nations are fully involved. And we need to makes sure that British Columbians get the economic benefits.
We still have other resource industries as the North Island well knows. I raised with the Minister of Forests the issue of the temporary shutdown of the Port Alice mill. Neucel has announced a two month shut down to do much needed repairs. But the company faces an ongoing problem of access to fibre. As Neucel is one of the main economic generators on Vancouver Island, I urged the Minister to work to find a solution.
It was a pleasure to acknowledge in the Legislature, the retirement of Port McNeill’s Mayor, Gerry Furney. Mayor Furney and I may not see eye to eye politically but I have great admiration for his hard work and his lifelong dedication to his community.
This week we’ve been back in our constituencies for the Remembrance Day week. I’ve been in a number of our communities over the course of the week, spending Remembrance Day in Campbell River (at the Legion breakfast) and Gold River (for the laying of the wreath). I will end the week at Winterfest in Sointula.
I can always be reached by phone at my Campbell River office: 250 287 5100 or toll free at 1 866 387 5100 or in Port Hardy on 250 949 9473. My email is: Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to friend me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @clairetrevena.