Tories promise to fund a Nanaimo-Vancouver ferry

A model of one of the two boats that will run the route

Plus, Glacier kills its community papers and the feds send a cryptic message to local marijuana shops

A route through choppy waters
Two Conservative candidates on Vancouver Island have pledged the “required financial support”—an initial $14 million and possibly more—to get a privately-run ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver up and running. “The foot passenger ferry is THE missing link in the [Island’s] transportation infrastructure,” stated Mark MacDonald, the CPC candidate for Nanaimo-Ladysmith in a press release. Sounds familiar? That may be because there have been at least three failed attempts since the 1980s to run such a service. The most recent, Harbour Lynx, used a hovercraft until 2006, when a faulty engine and a surprise sales tax bill shut it down.

So, what’s changed? Population, for one. Vancouver Island’s population (outside of Victoria) has increased 11 per cent since 2000, and fares on the beloved provincial ferry monopoly have crept upward. But with seaplane routes, a helicopter service and cheaper fares on BCFerries, does this proposal have legs (or rudders, rather)? The Conservatives seem to think so. John Duncan, the chief government whip in the House of Commons and a candidate in Comox-Alberni, who led yesterday’s announcement, is running a tight race against the NDP—that new riding would have swung to the Tories by four points in 2011. And with transportation a sore point for all Island voters, you can understand its appeal.

And it isn’t only the Tories pledging money: the City of Nanaimo and the local economic development agency are both backing the proposal along with a group of private investors. David Marshall, Victoria-based consultant and director of operations of Island Ferries, told the Nanaimo Daily News that the pledge was “enough to secure the confidence of private investors”; he says that the project has secured $70 million from unidentified investors. But even with the Tory pledge, his project still needs $5 million more.

All that’s fit to print
On Thursday, the Burnaby NewsLeader, Tri-Cities Now and New Westminster NewsLeader—all Glacier Media properties—announced that they would cease publication come October. They’re small operations (Now has three reporters and the NewsLeader papers share two), but they further shrink community news coverage in the region’s cities. Surrey, Langley and Vancouver are the only cities in the Lower Mainland with more than one regular paper. The closures add to the pile of community news casualties over the past three years. In May, the independently-owned Prince George Free Press shut down. In March, Black Press closed down weeklies in Campbell River and Parksville. In 2014, Glacier closed the Kamloops Daily News, the South Delta Leader and the North Shore Outlook—and the year before, the Abbotsford/Mission Times. And if you look back to 2012, Prince Rupert, Quesnel and Nelson all lost community papers.  

Through a haze
A letter from the feds to a dozen dispensaries and compassion clubs across Canada, including at least one in Vancouver, has set off a round of head scratching over the government’s next move on the medical marjijuana file. In the letter addressed to a local compassion club, Health Canada states that if the club “does not immediately cease all activity,” their case would be forwarded on to the RCMP. “The sale and advertising of marijuana is illegal…. You are encouraging Canadians to engage in conduct that could expose them to criminal liability.” The Vancouver Police Department quickly stated that they were not planning any raids, setting off a round of speculation that the RCMP could conduct raids in the City of Vancouver. Even Gregor Robertson weighed in, calling the letter “curious” (Globe and Mail). And then came a clarification from the feds, that despite the letters’ explicit wording, they were after ‘advertising’ violations only.