I read with keen interest the Tribune’s July 1 account of Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s “announcements” regarding the marine link in the Discovery Coast Circle Tour.
The story managed to cover the “good news” part — the tiny inadequate Nimpkish will be replaced sometime before she is slated for a 2018 retirement — a bit of old news to anyone who has been following the developments.
Stone announced that he will soon sign a contract with BC Ferries making direct sailings between Bella Coola and Port Hardy a thing of the past (direct summer sailings were part of the marine link from its inception in 1996 until Stone killed them in 2013.)
“There’s not going to be a resurrection of a direct service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola,” Stone said. Now this was new news.
In response, Pat Corbett, President of the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association countered that the service Stone is planning “won’t work” (because it involves a transfer partway that would be hard to schedule, it won’t appeal to sophisticated international travelers — the ones the tourism industry wants to attract.)
Corbett has been involved in tourism for decades, and along with the entire tourism industry, has rejected Stone’s decision regarding the Discovery Coast ferry since the outset. Corbett pointed out that European travel agencies have boycotted B.C. since Stone throttled the marine link two seasons ago.
Stone, a five-month government rookie at the time he adopted the BC Ferries recommendation to scuttle the direct route, told Corbett: “We can agree to disagree.”
Stone would also disagree with Petrus Rykes, President of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association and Chair of the “Save the Discovery Coast Ferry Campaign,” who told the Tribune: “it’s a doable proposition.”
Since the Tribune’s account appeared, Rykes elaborated, saying: “The marine link is doable — and can probably make money — but only if it’s run properly and if Stone works with the regional industry and BC Ferries to come up with the best model possible.”
Stone promised “community engagement” regarding scheduling of his new and improved “connector” marine link. Such a “promise” is old news.
Delivering on it would be new.
Mr. Stone, agreeing to disagree is not “engagement,” and it’s not news that your position about your “tough” decisions has been fixed in stone from the start.
When it was noted that the marine link needs to sail on a schedule that is attractive to tourists, Stone responded: “That’s the input that needs to be heard and received loud and clear from the industry.”
Mr. Stone, this is old input: Critics of BC Ferries have been calling for a better, tourist-friendly schedule ever since the Discovery Coast service was instated nearly 20 years ago.
Receiving the input “loud and clear” would be the real news.
No engagement so far is hardly reason to expect more in future.
Stone concluded his remarks saying: “There are other ferry needs in coastal communities that are a higher priority. When balancing our budget we can’t say ‘yes’ to every single request. You know what? You end up saying ‘no’ a lot more than saying ‘yes.’ That’s what governing is all about.”
Really, Minister Stone? Is governing really about saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to beggars? If so, this is news to me.
Ernest Hall, Reporter
Coast Mountain News