An economic impact study released this week indicates ferry cuts have cost more than they saved in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Coast region.
The study, commissioned by the West Chilcotin Tourism Association, showed in this first year alone, the cuts made to the Discovery Coast Passage route (Route 40) cost the region $3.3 million in lost economic activity and $3.9 million in lost tourism revenue.
“That amount doesn’t factor in another $870,000 that has not been collected in municipal, provincial and federal taxes for 2014,” said Beat Steiner, co-owner of the Tweedsmuir Park Lodge in the Bella Coola Valley.
When the provincial government announced the closure of Route 40 it justified the cut, saying it would result in a savings of $725,000 a year.
“The damage that’s been caused by closing the route has far surpassed that savings,” Steiner said, noting when the government was finalizing the ferry cuts, Steiner was in Europe promoting the area’s tourism.
“We’ve had the rug pulled from under us and it’s been very disappointing,” he said, adding Bella Coola is at the end of a 450 kilometre dead end road now because with the ferry cuts there’s only one way in and one way out.
NPD leader John Horgan criticized the Liberals, saying they promised to improve and sustain ferry services, but they didn’t bother to do an economic impact study before cutting ferry routes.
“The expectation of those people working to grow the economy on the North Island or in Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region had expectation the government would consult with them before taking reckless action that’s going to lead to a reduction in the ability to attract new customers and new revenues to their communities,” Horgan said.
Responding in question period Monday Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the Queen of Chilliwack, needed to be replaced, and the replacement cost on that vessel was $100 million.
“Now, the amortization cost that rolls through on Ferries’ books is about $7 million per year, which would take the loss from the current $7.35 million up to about $14.5 million.”
This was all to move about 500 or 600 vehicles on that straight shot, he added.
Stone said his government is going to continue to make those tough decisions and cutting the Discovery Coast Route was a tough one.
“From day one I said, on behalf of government, there were going to be impacts,” Stone said. “But I want to also say that we have extended our hands to the tour operators from the Bella Coola–Williams Lake corridor.
“The minister of tourism has been up there and met with the operators. I’ve been up there. We invested $100,000 through Destination B.C. to assist with marketing, and we’re going to continue to work with operators.”