Cullen wraps up islands-wide tour

  • Jun. 7, 2015 8:00 p.m.

By Quinn BenderHaida Gwaii ObserverSkeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen wrapped up a multi-day tour of Haida Gwaii to reconnect with community leaders, businesses and individuals last week. Amongst several concerns and grievances heard from islanders, BC Ferries not-so-surprisingly topped the list.”There’s always been a frustration with ferries, but it’s reaching a critical point,” Mr. Cullen said. “The service has become so unreliable, it’s just so incredibly poor, its hurting just about every aspect of island life. The economy certainly, and tourism as well, but also people’s ability to get to medical appointments and just their ability to live here.”On May 8 Mr. Cullen had called upon the federal government to provide more funding to the province to improve, or at least maintain, service levels for BC Ferries. Speaking in the House of Commons he said the current subsidy works out to only $1.04 per passenger, and that money earmarked for the subsidy is being mischannled into general revenue, meaning it often doesn’t go toward the intended use.In a meeting with Observer staff in Queen Charlotte, Mr. Cullen said he will continue to apply pressure for more funding, reminding the Conservative government that when B.C. entered confederation, he said, as part of the deal the Government of Canada at the time promised to support ferry service. Outside his influence in Ottawa, Mr. Cullen is also taking aim squarely at BC Ferries management, blasting the CEO and vice presidents for mid-six-figure salaries, and various operational policies he says hinders basic access to ferry service.”There’s this asinine policy they have of allowing construction companies to book deck space, but not penalize them when they don’t show up,” he said. “I’m coming back here in August with the family. We phoned two weeks ago and were told we’re on standby. Well, I understand what that means, and I’m still going try to get to the islands, but to a much more casual visitor, you’re essentially telling them, ‘don’t come.'”It’s choking the life of the island.”Mr. Cullen typically makes two trips annually to the Haida Gwaii to meet with residents. During his stay last week he held two meet-and-greet sessions, one at the Crow’s nest in Tlell May 18, followed by Brady’s Bistro at the Sandspit Airport May 21, in between various stops and meetings in other islands communities.  He praised a Skidegate heat-pump exchange project, with local business Don’s Heat Pumps, saying it’s a rare instance where Aboriginal Affairs works well with a community’s needs, as opposed to ideas conceived of and executed from Ottawa.”If this works, we can expand this to other communities islands-wide,” he said.Mr. Cullen also met with GwaiiTel representatives, citing the critical role connectivity plays in today’s economy, to discuss new federal funding programs the organization hopes to access for a fiber opitic Internet connection from the mainland.Of course islanders pitched a battery of concerns over proposed oil pipelines and the subsequent tanker traffic passing the islands, to which Mr. Cullen focused his attention on Haida Gwaii’s capacity for emergency response. “At the same time the government has been pushing for pipelines and increased traffic, increased risk, they’ve been cutting back dramatically on [Coast Guard funding]. “I don’t think most people realize how much traffic is already going by here already. But if something were to happen, the best policy they have for response is Hope.”

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii fishing grounds are key to survival of northern resident killer whales: DFO

Plan marks waters from Langara to Rose Spit as critical habitat for northern resident killer whales

Masset suggests a simpler structure for Gwaii Trust

Change would parallel existing municipal, regional district representation for non-Haida communities

Grade 9s on Gwaii Haanas trip visit “the best spot on Haida Gwaii”

Now in its fourth year, Grade 9 trip gives Haida Gwaii youth a chance to visit Tanu and Windy Bay

Live-streaming ancient undersea volcanoes in HD

16-day expedition maps SG̱aan Ḵinghlas-Bowie, Dellwood, and Explorer seamounts

A pirate party for skateboarding scallywags

With a skateboard ramp and all-islands music line-up, Saturday fundraiser gets Skate Society rolling

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

VIDEO: Life’s a beach at this B.C. sand sculpting contest

More than $50,000 was up for grabs at the annual contest held in Parksville

Group urges Canada to help Holocaust denier on trial in Germany

They’re concerned about Canada’s apparent unwillingness to come to the aid of Monika Schaefer

RCMP seek person of interest after elderly man left with ‘life altering’ injuries

Burnaby RCMP believe a male teen is a ‘person of interest’ in the case

MGM sues Vegas mass shooting victims, argues it isn’t liable

The company argues it has “no liability of any kind” to survivors or families of slain victims

Vancouver police propose policy for victims, witnesses who are undocumented immigrants

If approved, officers will not ask about an immigration status, unless needed

Crashes reach ‘all-time high’ across B.C.: ICBC

Auto insurer recorded more than 350,000 crashes in 2017

Pressure on for ride hailing, bus options in B.C.

Premiers to press Ottawa for help replacing Greyhound service

Usain Bolt to make run at pro soccer in Australia

Olympic sprint great has long expressed his love of the game

Most Read