MLA Stilwell lobbies for Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route

Concerns raised when BC Ferries CEO suggested one of the two Nanaimo terminals could be closed

The provincial government has no appetite to close one of Nanaimo’s two ferry terminals, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell said last week.

BC Ferries CEO Jim Corrigan floated the idea of possibly closing a Nanaimo terminal and Horseshoe Bay in his report posted to the independent ferry commissioner’s website. Transportation Minister Todd Stone didn’t immediately reject the idea.

“It then sorta exploded,” Stilwell told The NEWS last week. She said Stone then heard from her and fellow Island Liberal MLA (and cabinet minister) Don MacRae. “We stressed the importance of the ferry service — it’s critically important to the mid-Island,” said Stilwell. Stone then became more definitive with statements to the media.

“The minister has said the government has determined it (closing a Nanaimo terminal or eliminating the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route) is not an initiative we are going to pursue at this time,” said Stilwell. “We need to listen to the public and the public has to come together . . . lead to solutions that will make it a viable, affordable, efficient, sustainable ferry system.”

Stilwell said she has spoken to people on both sides of the Strait of Georgia about the service between the Lower Mainlaind and the mid-Island. She mused about someone trying to go to Vancouver from Nanaimo or points north like Parksville Qualicum Beach if there was no Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route. She spoke about driving south of Nanaimo to Duke Point and enduring a longer ferry ride, only to get off south of Vancouver at Tsawwassen facing another 30-minutes-plus to Vancouver.

“Is that even something you would consider doing?” said Stilwell. “How would that affect your life?”

After Stone rejected the route and terminal closures Corrigan floated, the BC Ferries CEO then suggested the provincial government must come up with more money for the system if fares are going to stay linked to only inflationary increases. Stilwell was asked if the provincial government was willing to put more money into the BC Ferries system.

“I’m not willing to speculate on that,” said Stilwell. “That will be something that comes from the minister’s office.”