Discovery Coast Ferry cancellation opposed

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA fighting to keep service through 2014

On Dec. 18, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett received a 900-signature petition to save the Discovery Coast Ferry service, which forms an integral piece of the Vancouver Island-British Columbia mainland circle route.

She was asked to pass the petition on to her B.C. Liberal colleagues in Victoria.

Doug Wilson of Williams Lake, who delivered the petition, said hundreds of people are concerned about the cancellation of BC Ferry’s Route 40 – Port Hardy to Bella Coola – service and the financial hardship it will bring to the many enterprises along the Highway 20 corridor from Williams Lake to Bella Coola.

“Many tourist operators are depending on the continuation of travellers along this route.”

Barnett said she is working as hard as she can to have the ferry continue in 2014.

“Our tourism operators have sold their packages overseas; they’ve sold them around the world. At this point in time, there’s a financial analysis document of the tourism industry being prepared that will be going to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.”

BC Ferries announced the proposed cancellation in a Nov. 18 press release, and four days later, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association (CCCTA) announced it was “vehemently opposed” to the Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s proposed BC Ferries cancellation of Route 40 based on the economic hardship and loss of jobs it will cause.

“This route is a key component of the provincial Discovery Coast circle route and generates significant revenue for businesses and communities throughout the Interior,” the release continued.

CCCTA chief executive officer Amy Thacker noted the association is compiling data to support a regional economic impact statement.

“The Port Hardy to Bella Coola Queen of Chilliwack run supports the visitor economy of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast,” said CCCTA chair Pat Corbett.

“Early estimates are in the millions of dollars in revenue generation along the Discovery Coast route, providing critical jobs, benefits to businesses and communities throughout our region and province.”

Barnett said she met with Stone in early December and insisted the decision to cancel the Port Hardy to Bella Coola Route be reversed.

Barnett added the provincial government and BC Ferries need to have dialogue to work with industries to do different types of marketing for 2014.

If the ferry isn’t efficient, it’s not efficient, Barnett said, adding taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize anything, no matter what it is.

“I know it’s a hard blow to everybody to have to change their way of life, but in this case, when you’ve gone out and sold a product, done your work and spent your money, and you could have maybe spent your money marketing in a different concept, it’s tough all of a sudden to say I don’t have that product anymore. I cannot accept that.”

After receiving the petition in William Lake on Dec. 18, the Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA said she hopes to bring Tourism and Jobs Minister Shirley Bond, and Minister of State for Tourism Naomi Yamamoto to Williams Lake in the not too distance future.

“I will continue to pursue the ferry. I know how important it is and I will certainly take [the petition] to the minister.”

With files from Monica Lamb-Yorski