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Comment: Public input will make the Belleville Terminal project better

A much-needed upgrade to the Belleville ferry terminal will benefit from input from the public, Paul Nursey and Bruce Williams write
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The aging Belleville Street ferry terminal in downtown Victoria. TIMES COLONIST

A commentary. Nursey is the CEO of Destination Greater ­Victoria and Williams is the CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

The timing of the provincial government’s engagement around a new Belleville Terminal couldn’t be better. This summer our city was buzzing once again with the energy and vibrancy of hundreds of thousands of visitors who filled our streets, our hotels, our retail businesses and our restaurants.

The Belleville Terminal has operated as a key piece of infrastructure for trade and tourism since 1924. A vital point-of-entry for goods that supports our quality of life, as well as being the “welcome mat” to our city, the terminal has spawned and supported thousands of jobs throughout the capital region and is responsible for generating millions of dollars in provincial revenue annually.

Today, however, it is a very tired and aging workhorse.

It has been studied for years, and by all accounts it has earned its keep. The terminal needs renewal and priority investment that will secure the critical Canada-U.S. pre-clearance services that enable strategic economic, social and environmental alliances with our neighbours throughout the Cascadia Region.

The existing facilities are not compliant with the pre-clearance treaty, putting U.S. Customs and Border Protection services from Vancouver Island in jeopardy, including the loss of those ­services at Sidney and for ­Kenmore Air.

The stakes could not be higher and we cannot squander this opportunity.

The U.S. has long been the most important ­international market for visitation to Greater Victoria. According to ­Destination Greater Victoria’s 2019 visitor survey, 31 per cent of visitors to the destination were from the U.S. market, 40 per cent of which were from Washington state.

The local visitor economy was excited to welcome our American friends back to the community. These are our best customers.

If U.S. Customs were to withdraw service, we are risking there would be no more Coho or Clipper to get you to and from Seahawks games or Mariners games, or to serve as your entry point for those trips to Palm Desert, Disneyland or Oregon.

We applaud the provincial government for advancing this project to the public for input.

For those of us working closely in the tourism sector (two in five working Greater Victorians are employed in tourism), this opportunity is of paramount importance and will represent a foundation for the visitor and trade economies to thrive for decades to come.

A new terminal is anticipated to generate $257 million in visitor spending and an estimated 3,200 additional regional jobs per year in 20 years.

It will also generate net returns to the provincial ­treasury for reinvestment in public services and other ­infrastructure projects.

The project enjoys broad support. All 13 capital region mayors have written letters of support for the project, and the federal government is engaged in discussions to partner as well. Now it is the public’s turn to show support.

Public input will make the project better.

Learn more about what’s planned and provide your feedback by Oct. 20 through the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s Belleville Terminal Redevelopment Project engagement webpage at engage.gov.bc.ca/bellevilleterminal.

It’s time to retire the portable trailers and chain-link fences and invest in a world-class ­gateway to our capital city and Vancouver Island, and to the province of British Columbia.

>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: letters@timescolonist.com

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