FEDERAL ELECTION: Parksville Qualicum Beach candidates take the campaign to the ocean

Conservative and NDP candidates make promises about marine safety, ferries

The frontrunners in the race to represent the riding that includes Parksville Qualicum Beach focussed this week on the waters surrounding Vancouver Island.

NDP candidate Gord Johns said his party would allow BC Ferries and the provincial government to access federal funding for ferry infrastructure, terminals, fleet upgrades and new vessels. Johns did not indicate how much money would be available, but he did say it would come from the federal government’s New Building Canada Fund, a pot of taxpayer dollars municipalities traditionally access for infrastructure projects.

“The Harper Conservatives have prevented BC Ferries access to basic infrastructure funding that would help reduce ferry costs for BC,” Johns, the NDP candidate for Courtenay-Alberni, said through a news release. “Tom Mulcair and the NDP will end Harper’s unfair policy that is hurting our coastal communities.”

Johns also said that in September, Conservative candidate John Duncan insisted that Ottawa would never consider increased support for the BC ferry system. The federal government does support the ferry system, to the tune of $28 million a year. “Fare increases and service cuts from BC Ferries have had a negative impact on communities in Courtenay-Alberni and they haven’t been addressed at a federal level,” said Johns. “People depend on our ferry system for transportation, work, jobs and our economy.”

In an interview with The NEWS this week, Duncan said BC Ferries is already “fully eligible” to access the Build Canada Fund for shore-based infrastructure.

“We don’t agree on the ship side, but the shore-based stuff (terminals, etc.), they are fully eligible,” he said.

The Duncan campaign issued its own news release this week in relation to the waters off Vancouver Island. Duncan said a re-elected Conservative government will take additional steps towards protecting B.C.’s coast and supporting marine safety.

The veteran MP said a Conservative government will provide new resources to address the issue of derelict boats, acquire greater tugboat capacity on the West Coast, and develop HMCS Discovery (currently located adjacent to Stanley Park in Vancouver) into a major maritime joint operations centre for the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard.

“Our party has always been committed to protecting Canada from coast to coast to coast,” Duncan said through a news release. “That’s why we’ll build on our strong record of maritime protection and security and commit new resources to support British Columbia’s coast. The Liberals and NDP claim they’ll spend billions and billions of dollars with money they simply don’t have. Their out-of-control spending promises would wreck our economy and take money right out of the pockets of Canadians. Only Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party have a plan to keep our coastal regions safe and secure while protecting the Canadian and economy and creating jobs.”

In an interview this week with The NEWS, Johns said Duncan’s comments about protecting the coast, especially in relation to derelict vessels, is “laughable. John Duncan voted against a bill we presented on derelict vessels.”

Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder did introduce a bill earlier this year that would have made the Canadian Coast Guard the sole receiver of wrecks, taking on full responsibility for aging, abandoned boats in the country. The issue has raised to the surface in this riding, specifically in Deep Bay.

Crowder’s bill failed. At the time, Duncan said the bill “was not the way to go… it’s not appropriate for the federal authority to take over all liability when it’s simply not currently their authority — much of it is provincial responsibility. There’s a vacuum in the law right now. We should be addressing it, not going in the direction of Crowder’s bill.”

In an interview this week, Duncan said he favoured a “community-based fund where the federal government could contribute to a community effort to get rid of derelict boats.”

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