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Ferry impact study needed, city

Cutbacks to ferry services on the coast will affect Williams Lake, said city councillor Surinderpal Rathor.

“It may not affect us to the level that it will impact places like Bella Coola and Prince Rupert, but it will definitely affect us,” Rathor said during the regular council meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting council voted unanimously to support a request made by the City of Prince Rupert that service cuts to BC Ferries Northern Routes be postponed until 2015 and a comprehensive economic impact assessment be undertaken immediately to guide future changes.

A report prepared by the City of Prince Rupert noted there has never been an economic impact assessment to measure the benefit of BC Ferries to the provincial, and especially northern, economy.

“We need to postpone any cuts to service until we fully understand the benefits of the service,” the report suggested.

Rathor said he was surprised to see the action taken by the government to remove the Queen of Chilliwack servicing the Discovery Coast.

The previous premier was “gung-ho” to have the circle tour from Bella Coola to Williams Lake, he said.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the Tourism Discovery Centre to promote tourism and  if one portion of tourism is lost because of the ferry cancellation, it would be a shame if the city hadn’t intervened, Rathor said.

“Something needs to be done to ask the government to leave this route alone.”

Coun. Ivan Bonnell said it’s the lack of consultation with communities that upsets him the most.

“Prior to suggesting service cuts they should have consulted communities and done an impact analysis,” Bonnell said, adding he hopes government will listen to the communities now.

The ferry service is an extension of the highway service, and ferries are used in place of building more bridges, he added.

“It’s costly to operate, but let’s find some resolutions to making it work financially.”

Coun. Laurie Walters said the city needs to start paying attention to the value of tourism in the city and the region and realize it is a major cog in the economic wheel.

“We need to do as much as we can to stop the ferry cuts from happening,” Walters said.

 

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