OUR VIEW: Foot ferry plan springs a leak

Island Ferries will miss an overly optimistic March 2015 startup deadline

Nanaimo’s foot ferry project isn’t exactly getting off on the right foot.

Island Ferries will miss an overly optimistic March 2015 startup deadline laid out in a lease agreement with the City of Nanaimo.

We have had to make do without a foot ferry for almost nine years now, so we were of course encouraged when Island Ferries first pitched its plan, back in October 2013, to begin a passenger-only service to and from downtown Vancouver.

At the time, the company indicated that it needed what it categorized as “final investment,” plus a partnership with the city. Last year it signed an agreement with the municipality to dock two catamarans at a waterfront property.

But final investment hasn’t happened. Island Ferries is seeking money from the federal New Building Canada Fund, and though it seems to meet Infrastructure Canada’s project criteria, there are no guarantees when it comes to government funding. In the months leading up to a federal election, we can expect the Conservatives to give generously, but also strategically.

The City of Nanaimo will do what it can to help Island Ferries secure federal tax dollars. Mayor Bill McKay has mentioned he would even be willing to fly to Ottawa to ask for the building fund handout, and if he’s successful, then his airfare is money well-spent.

There are already significant tax dollars being sunk into this foot ferry, and now what we’re doing, in a way, is asking for more.

We want Island Ferries here because the service would be useful, close and convenient and it would give us more transportation options. It could also attract newcomers, commuters, tourists and business opportunities. These are things that we want and need. But not at any cost. Will Island Ferries be a viable business in Nanaimo? If not, then what will it be?

For now, we hope this foot ferry finds its funding, and finds it footing.

– Black Press