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Letters Feb. 20: Where B.C. ferries should be built; private development won't fix housing

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B.C. Ferries vessel Spirit of Vancouver Island, sailing on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route. TIMES COLONIST

Building ferries offshore helps to keep costs low

Re: “B.C. Ferries’ vessels should be built in B.C.,” editorial, Feb. 16.

As an essential public service, I believe we have a duty to invest here at home and do that in a way that helps us provide affordable, reliable service to our customers.

While the editorial suggests we should pay higher prices to favour B.C. shipbuilders — even if we set aside this isn’t allowed under national trade agreements — that ignores the impact this would have on our customers.

Any extra dollar we spend on building new ships means customers pay more. That either comes through increased pressures on fares our passengers pay at the ticket booth or through investment from the province, funded by taxpayers.

We know affordability is top of mind for people who travel on B.C. Ferries and we don’t take that responsibility lightly.

When we put out a request for interested shipbuilders and not one from B.C. or Canada puts in a bid, it makes it challenging to consider — let alone select — local businesses, and it’s not just B.C. Ferries that isn’t building ships in B.C.

Over the past decade, of the 17,500 commercial vessels ordered around the world, just three were built in Canada, and all of those in Quebec.

Don’t mistake any of that for a lack of investment we’re making in our local economy. Today, 90 per cent of what we spend on our vessels each year goes to companies in B.C. and Canada. That’s more than $60 million annually that we spend in this province for maintenance, local labour, buying parts and inspections — all of which supports local jobs.

We also expect to spend another $900 million at local shipyards for upgrades, overhauls and inspections to the fleet over the next 12 years.

At the end of the day, our calculation is simple. Deliver high-quality vessels at a price that allows us to keep fares affordable for customers, and do it all while making significant investments in this province.

Nicolas Jimenez

President and CEO

B.C. Ferries

Ferries built here? It’s just a fantasy

Re: “B.C. Ferries’ vessels should be built in B.C.,” editorial, Feb. 16.

As the writer highlights, costs of labour are one key factor which impacts shipbuilding in B.C. With more cost-effective ship building facilities in other parts of the world, it is a hard sell to promote in-house alternatives.

Modern manufacturing production involves the use of many raw metals such as aluminum, nickel, palladium and vanadium. Price hikes and shortages here in Canada, disrupt several industrial applications. The market trends including changes in global value chains towards decarbonization and digitalization. The expansion of and the acceleration toward the eco-friendly and smart ships are noticeable aspects in the recent marine equipment sector.

Although the policy of the federal government strategies, intellectual property rights and technology transfers in the marine equipment industry are modern, the industry itself is slow to change.

With the increasing need for investment to secure technology and materials required for building ships, complicated by maintaining sufficient skilled staffing levels, B.C. may only dream.

William Perry

Victoria

Off-shoring is a losing proposition

Re: “B.C. Ferries’ vessels should be built in B.C.,” editorial, Feb. 16.

The editorial is correct on all points. The labour movement advanced all of these points 20 years ago.

However, the B.C. Liberal government of the day saw a different benefit of spinning that B.C. shipyards were incapable of building ferries by pointing to past NDP premier Glen Clark’s ill-informed decision to build fast ferries not suited for our waters. The B.C. Liberal spin worked successfully in two election cycles.

The saddest part of this saga is that the NDP governments that have followed have continued full speed ahead on the past B.C. Liberal government’s off-shoring policy to the detriment of B.C.

Shipbuilders, shipyard workers, suppliers, businesses that would have benefited in wages spent in B.C. and the taxes payable from employers and employees that would have exceeded any monies saved by off-shoring.

Wayne Cox

Saanichton

Keep the ferry jobs in this province

Re: “B.C. Ferries’ vessels should be built in B.C.,” editorial, Feb. 16.

Both Spirit class vessels were built here 30 years ago. They are the most reliable ships we have. They carry far more than the Coastal class from Germany which has less running hours and more defects.

The tax money goes away and never comes back. It’s a shell game over there because of a lack of accountability.

The Salish ships have had numerous issues and the build quality is questionable. The LNG program seems good overall and makes more sense for reliability and cost than battery hybrid design.

Most have higher fuel consumption than the vessels they replaced and can rarely run fully on batteries.

You can pay me now or pay me later. But giving our shipyards and workforce the tax dollars makes more sense than a Polish, German or Romania guy getting the money.

You’ll end up paying for unemployed workers anyway with the welfare system. Better to give them a job and grow families here.

Bill McCallum

Saanich

Shipyard capacity is a major concern

Re: “B.C. Ferries’s vessels should be built in B.C.,” editorial, Feb. 16.

This is a well-reasoned approach to the issue of building ferries for a government entity in B.C. Yes, we should build them here.

However — and, a big however — is the ability of B.C. shipyards to compete effectively. Yes, taxes, employment, expenditures would “stay at home” but the underlying issue is whether B.C. shipyards have the capacity to effectively fill occasional orders for a few large vessels.

I doubt it, especially in this tight labour market where the monthly Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey shows lack of skilled employment to be members’ major concern.

Surely, building modern vessels one at a time with 21st century shipbuilding technology does not require a very large workforce — so that the employment taxes will be modest.

Taxes on the profit will likely be low given lack of scale; additional oversight will be necessary given the lack of competitive bidding.

Would we have “regained” the $80 million savings quoted? Or would we end up like the Navy with delays, cost overruns, you name it?

“Fast ferries” anyone?

Roger Love

Saanich

Canada needs to restore our place in the world

I realize that our foreign aid support is needed, but I think Pierre Poilievre has his priorities right when he suggests funding for Canada’s military instead.

Our current commitment to the UN is about 1.1 per cent of GDP, well below the two per cent benchmark. Poilievre is right when he asserts that Canada has been relying on the United States for protection in the event of a North American attack by a foreign country.

We have already had a direct warning from Donald Trump, who said Russia could do whatever it wanted to any NATO member that shirks its spending commitment. A very blunt message to Canada.

Also, I take issue with International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen’s comment that “Poilievre’s proposal would diminish Canada’s influence on the world stage.”

Where has Hussen been this past eight years? Our influence has declined sharply within those past years due to our lax investment in global affairs.

We used to be considered a First World power but have been demoted by some to “middle power.”

Wake up, Ottawa! We need to start pulling our weight globally if we want to restore our good name.

Ruth Steeves

Victoria

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