Thursday, February 11, 2010

More consultation required before BC Ferry route implementation

David Hahn's plan for a long distance connection between Prince Rupert and Tsawwassen may take a bit longer to get into the operational phase, if it ever does at all.

That after Shirley Bond, the province's Transportation Minister said that said British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. needs to provide for more consultation with the public, before she'll give the green light to their controversial ferry service plan.

Her input into the debate perhaps heralds the beginning of some of the accountability discussed in Monday's speech from the Throne, which found the province outlining its apparent change of direction when it comes to BC Ferries.

As the Victoria Times Colonist points out, the Liberals appeared to single out the quasi-independent B.C. Ferries corporation for “new accountability and transparency”. It was a very public advisory that has the Ferry Service puzzled as to where its status stands at the moment and what the government has planned for it in the future.

That declaration makes for a rather striking change from the hands off approach that they have provided to the Ferries file over the last few years. An indication that the Liberals may finally be feeling some of the heat generated by ferry users and communities affected by the decisions made at BC Ferries head office.

The proposed Prince Rupert and Tsawwassen route has not been particularly well received by North Coast residents or politicians, with concerns about local employment and a negative effect on the tourism industry across Northern BC heralded as the main cause for concern.

While Ms. Bond urges consultation, one hopes that BC Ferries is a bit more forward thinking in its public sessions than the last time they came north to break bread and share views, in November Mr. Hahn and his officials arrived in Prince Rupert to trumpet their plans of the new route, leaving a less than favourable impression with the locals as to their ability to listen and or understand the concerns of those communities that they are supposed to serve.

It was a session that provided the incentive for an enthusiastic letter writing campaign by the City of Prince Rupert, Tourism Prince Rupert and MLA Gary Coons, all eager to share their concerns with Ms. Bond, who clearly seems to have heard their message.

The Tyee provides a look at the latest developments in the dynamic between BC Ferries, the government and the residents of northern and coastal British Columbia and how that relationship may once again be about to change.

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