Haida Gwaii leaders make the case for more ferry sailings

Local councillors say they had positive talks with B.C. counterparts about adding more ferry sailings between Skidegate and Prince Rupert.

Local councillors say they have had positive talks with their B.C. counterparts about adding more ferry sailings between Skidegate and Prince Rupert.

Barry Pages, chair of the newly renamed North Coast Regional District, met three times with B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference in September.

“They recognize there are issues,” said Pages, who told Stone that even now, in the off-season before an expected tourism boost from the royal visit and Amazing Race Canada, it can take weeks for islanders to get a ferry.

“I just tried to make a reservation today for two weeks form now, and I’m on standby,” he said.

To the meetings with B.C.’s transportation ministry, Pages brought letters of support from Skidegate and Old Massett, plus charts prepared by village staff in Queen Charlotte that make a business case for a third Skidegate-Prince Rupert sailing from April to October.

“Our point was, ‘You guys can actually make money at this, and you’ll help our economy,’” said Queen Charlotte Mayor Greg Martin, speaking at a council meeting last week.

Martin said BC Ferries data from the last three years did not support adding sailings from November to March, so local leaders chose to focus on the most winning argument a pilot project for a third sailing in spring, summer, and fall.

“It’s not a done deal, but if we can increase the minimum number of sailings for the majority of the year to three, it’s going to do a lot not just for the people, but also for freight,” said Martin.

Other issues discussed at UBCM were funding for tsunami preparations, and support for a subsea internet cable that would make a second connection between Vancouver and Prince Rupert while also tying in Haida Gwaii.

Along with announcing the official name change of the North Coast Regional District (formerly the Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District), B.C. officials at the conference announced more funding for rural grants, housing, single parents, municipal transit and cycling projects, plus a commitment to repatriate First Nations artefacts at the Royal BC Museum.

Lori Wiedeman, the chief administrative officer for Queen Charlotte, said the village will also apply for new provincial and federal grants for water projects, which would cover plans for stormwater run-off and the design of a Queen Charlotte wastewater treatment plant.