MLA Trevena floats idea of building public vessels in B.C.

A private member's bill was introduced last week in the B.C. legislature by the NDP

North Island MLA Claire Trevena is pushing for legislation that would ensure public transportation vehicles, including ferries, are built in B.C.

The private members bill was introduced last week in the B.C. legislature by the NDP.

Trevena, who serves as ferry critic for the Official Opposition, said the bill would nurture the B.C. shipbuilding industry, benefit the province’s economy, and create jobs.

“If passed, the Provincial Shipbuilding Act would ensure that ferries, sea buses and any other vessels used by or for the public are built in Canada and have the opportunity to provide direct economic benefits here in B.C.,” said Trevena, adding that the bill would also see a provincial shipbuilding strategy developed.

With BC Ferries expected to replace a significant number of its vessels in the next few years, Trevena said having the Shipbuilding Act in place is crucial.

“BC Ferries will be replacing 26 ferries over the next 15 years,” Trevena said. “If these ferries were built in this province, we would see tremendous growth in this industry. But this would require a commitment from the Liberal government that we have not seen to date. In the past decade, we have added five new vessels to the BC Ferries fleet, and none have been built here.”

BC Ferries’ newest vessels – the Coastal Renaissance, the Coastal Celebration and the Coastal Inspiration – were built in Germany in 2008.  The Northern Expedition, built in 2009 to serve the Inside Passage and Haida Gwaii route between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, was also built in Germany. The Northern Adventure, purchased by BC Ferries in 2006, was built and refitted in Greece.

According to Trevena, a study by the Columbia Institute shows that building just three ferries in B.C. would add $378.5 million to the provincial economy, and result in $200 million in consumer spending and $100 million in taxes.

“Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the construction of ferries in Europe and the increased maintenance costs that incurs, this bill would see that this money is invested back into the B.C. economy, creating good jobs for workers here,” Trevena said.

The bill would also support an expanded provincial apprenticeship program with a requirement that at least 15 per cent of the labour force be enrolled in a recognized B.C. apprenticeship program.

“For every 100 jobs created in shipbuilding, 135 additional jobs are created elsewhere,” Trevena said. “This is an industry that B.C. should be proud of, and passing this legislation would ensure we are doing everything possible to help it thrive. I hope the B.C. Liberal government will show its support for good jobs and our shipbuilding industry by supporting this bill. I am hopeful, because it is a common sense piece of legislation, the government will support it.”