Amending the Coastal Ferry Act
Articles,  Blog

Amending the Coastal Ferry Act

Mr. Speaker: Member for Saanich North and the Islands. I rise today to speak to Bill 25, the Coastal
Ferry Amendment Act, and appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak to this bill — indeed,
important amendments to the Coastal Ferry Act. I just want to acknowledge the impact that
the ferries have on my riding. Indeed, the Saanich Peninsula is connected
to the Lower Mainland and the rest of the world through Swartz Bay, as Vancouver Island
is connected by the B.C. Ferries. But as well, I represent a number of ferry-dependent
communities in and throughout the southern Gulf Islands — amazingly vibrant, creative
places that require the ferries in order for them to be able to be connected not only to
Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay but also, again, to the rest of the world. A lot of the economic activity that’s generated
on the southern Gulf Islands comes through those ferries, either in the form of tourists
that come and visit through the summer months and purchase the amazing creations of island
residents but, as well, through products that are made and need to be distributed to the
global economy. So it’s important that I take a moment to
take the highlighter and draw attention to the very important work that I think that
this House is responsible for — ensuring that B.C. Ferries, the marine highway system,
is indeed resilient, reliable, convenient for people who are dependent on it on the
southern Gulf Islands and all up and down the coast of British Columbia. It’s not lost on me that slightly over a third,
I think it was, of the economy of British Columbia is impacted, and coastal communities
are a third of the provincial economy, roughly. So they are connected by that marine highway
network. Many of the members in this House represent
ferry-dependent communities and recognize and understand the impact that they have. I think that it’s important that we stand
up and acknowledge that as often as we possibly can. There has been this perception, I think, that
has overwhelmed this place that we can do without those important aspects of our economy
— that we can let those communities fall behind, that we can let them lag behind in
their transportation and connectivity. I think that it’s important we stand up and
defend not only the physical connections through the ferries, but also the digital connections,
and that we remain emotionally connected to these very, very important communities that
are often the life of our province. I think that it’s important to note that the
Redlin report that was commissioned by the government over a year ago now and that has
informed and inspired aspects of this bill has 38 recommendations with respect to the
public interest. I was on a panel last week at the College
of Applied Biology, talking about defining the public interest, and I wrote about it
recently, actually, on my blog — about the public interest. As someone who has been around the political
tables and been around the political discussion for the last decade, it’s not lost on me that
that is fundamentally the job of what we as elected officials do. That’s to try to define the public interest. It’s an ever-morphing, ever-evolving, ever-changing
target that is nearly impossible to hit because the public interest is ever morphing and ever
evolving. It’s that pursuit of the public interest that
I think defines the work that we do in this place on a daily basis — the diversity of
opinions and the diversity of thought. Indeed, we’ve heard some here. We do hear it on a regular basis in this place,
that diversity. It’s important that these Houses, that this
chamber, are reflective of the diversity of interests in the public and that the public
interest is defined as broadly as possible, recognizing that only we, collectively, are
going to be able to achieve even coming somewhere near…. I often say that I represent 50,000 different
opinions in my riding and that as many people that love the decision that I make will be
equally not so loving of the decision that I make. Just as many people that thought I made a
good decision in June of 2017 think I made a poor decision in June of 2017. What it comes down to is the ability to be
able to have a mature conversation with people and to meet them in their space and to say
we have to do our best to balance, in the public interest, the 50,000 opinions. I think that it is important to highlight
the governance aspect of this. Indeed, I’m on the record, and I have no problem
saying that I was disappointed that the governance aspects of B.C. Ferries was taken out of the
terms of reference as a focus for Mr. Redlin in his report. It’s not lost on me that it comes back that
38 recommendations about the public interest are actually talking about the governance
aspects of this critically important service and corporation. It is a part of our highway. The ferry system is a part of our highway
system. It is an important part of our highway system,
and it need not be lost on that. In the interest of time, I’m just going to
cover two more issues here and then take my seat. I think it’s important to point out that under
the current governance model, some of the important aspects that we find important and
that I think that…. I’d like to thank the leadership at B.C. Ferries,
who’ve been very generous with their time with me, as someone who is not only the critic
for Transportation but also has ferry-dependent communities. The leadership at B.C. Ferries has been generous
with their time. I really appreciate the efforts that they
take on behalf of the public interest; although, I think it is important that we highlight
here, at this point in time, that it is our responsibility to be providing transportation
services that are equitable across the province, that are accessible to all British Columbians,
that don’t hamper aspects of our communities and of our province. When it comes to the impacts of climate change
and when it comes to the impacts of noise — the pollution aspects of this — I know
that B.C. Ferries is working towards trying to make their ferries quieter to ensure that
there is as little disruption as possible on wildlife and that they’re trying to have
the lowest possible impact with their emissions. They’re, indeed, in a transition. I would like to suggest here at this point
that it’s not soon enough, fast enough. It’s not quick enough, fast enough. Transitioning from one fossil fuel to another
fossil fuel at this point in time, when we know that Canada is warming at twice the rate…. We’ve known that for 20 years. This is not new information. We need to be moving to those electric drives
as rapidly as possible. Finally, with respect to the shipbuilding
industry in this province, I recognize that it would be desirable for us to have a very
vibrant shipbuilding industry in this province and that we could be building our ships, the
vessels for B.C. Ferries, in this province. We could be, indeed, competitive on a global
scale with shipbuilding. Government is going to have to make that a
priority, not just to build the 11 or 14 — or whatever the number is — future vessels
but that we’re going to have to be competitive on a global scale. That number of vessels is not enough in order
for us to keep, over the long term, those investments in a shipbuilding industry and
the kind of skills and labour force that we need to do that. That is a specific focus that the government
is going to have to have. With that, I would like to rest my comments
on that. I’m getting the “let’s keep this moving, Member,”
so I will get moving to lunch. I’d like to thank the Speaker for the opportunity
to speak to this and the Minister of Transportation for beginning the important work of keeping
our ferry system reliable, convenient and, indeed, world-class.

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