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

Grim situation in coming year for northwest, B.C. fisheries

Annual post-season review in Prince Rupert informs DFO on how to manage 2019 fishing season

Two projects to tackle Haisla housing shortage

B.C. government plans to build more than 280 homes across nine communities in the north

Museum and Haisla Nation Council sign MOU

MOU further strengthens the existing relationship

VIDEO: Dog behaviourist holds classes to raise funds for NARA

Holidays are a busy time for rescue agencies

VIDEO: This B.C. school leads country in vaccine donations to UNICEF

Federally funded Kids Boost Immunity uses quizzes to earn vaccinations

Natural gas rates will go up in B.C. on Jan. 1

Regions could pay up to $68 more

Top House Dems raise prospect of impeachment, jail for Trump

It could be an “impeachable offense” if it’s proven that President Donald Trump directed illegal hush-money payments to women during the 2016 campaign.

Macron addresses France amid protests; is it too late?

Paris monuments reopened, cleanup workers cleared debris and shop owners tried to put the city on its feet again Sunday.

CUPE calls off Flair Airlines job action citing job security concerns

The union says it’s going to challenge Flair’s move at the Canada Industrial Relations Board before proceeding with any job action.

Trump looking at several candidates for new chief of staff

Trump’s top pick for the job, Nick Ayers, is out of the running and Trump is now soliciting input on at least four individuals.

Canadian physicist collects Nobel Prize

Canada’s Donna Strickland is one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics.

BCHL players help Team Canada in shootout win over U.S.

Massimo Rizzo scores the shootout winner at World Junior A Challenge

Canada Post backlog, Greyhound exit creating headaches ahead of the holidays

The federal government forced members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers back to their jobs late last month

Most Read