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More consultation needed on ferry route change: minister

British Columbia Transportation Minister Shirley Bond said British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. needs to consult more with the public before she'll approve a controversial plan to run ferries from Tsawwassen to Prince Rupert.

“There's been no final decisions made about that,” said Bond. “What I want to make sure is that communities have adequate opportunities to be consulted about that and there's obviously been some expression of concern in the Prince Rupert area in particular and along the northern corridor.”

Prince Rupert mayor Jack Mussallem wrote to Bond in January. “We feel this will have serious, negative impacts on our tourism industry, and upon the ability of residents to access ferry services,” he wrote, adding it will mean job losses in Prince Rupert.

The change, while adding service from Tsawwassen, would cut the number of sailings from Prince Rupert, he said.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons sent Bond a Feb. 1 letter. “If the point of assembly for the vessels is moved to Tsawwassen, Prince Rupert will lose 100 full-time casual positions, 30-40 summer employment opportunities for students and an unknown amount of permanent full-time jobs,” he wrote. “We cannot afford to lose one job on the North Coast.”

He added, “The proposal would also result in a substantial reduction of sailings into Prince Rupert with huge implications for tourism in Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and all along the Highway 16 tourist route, right into Prince George.”

He encouraged Bond to reject any change in service levels on the route.

Bond said she needs more information before she can make the decision. “We need to have all the facts and obviously government's going to make sure we have a really clear understanding of what this involves and what the impacts would be on communities,” she said.

“Having said that we are interested in seeing tourism increase in British Columbia, we're looking at all the possibilities and this route addition, at least according to B.C. Ferries, is one of the things that may help do that.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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