Blue Boat cancellation rumours spark commute concerns

No decision has been made on future of service: CFB Esquimalt

The fate of CFB Esquimalt’s Blue Boat service, which has been shuttling military and civilian defence employees between Colwood and Esquimalt military properties for years, has not been decided.

But there are concerns amidst rumours that the base’s oldest operating vessels, which are more than 50 years old, might not be repaired and returned to Esquimalt harbour in the event they need servicing.

That prompted View Royal’s council to write to Josée Touchette, an Ottawa-based assistant deputy minister of the Department of National Defence, in November urging the department “to maintain a reliable level of blue boat service in the Esquimalt harbour, and … that a timely replacement plan for the aging fleet is implemented to ensure the long-term viability of this regional service.”

Spearheaded by View Royal Coun. John Rogers, but sent under a council banner, the letter was meant to show support for a service “that makes a difference to those who are enabled by it,” said View Royal Mayor Graham Hill. “It may indeed be something that is a privilege rather than a (right).”

The letter was carbon-copied to CFB Esquimalt’s commander navy Capt. Craig Baines, the Capital Regional District board , the Township of Esquimalt and the City of Colwood.

“Currently no official decision has been made regarding the future of the Blue Boat service and its longer-term maintenance,” navy Lt. Michael McWhinnie, base public affairs officer, said in a statement.

The primary role of the Blue Boats is not to ferry commuting personnel. The vessels act as a “shuttle facilitating the internal movement of personnel between various defence properties adjacent to Esquimalt harbour,” McWhinnie said.

Without it, hundreds of personnel living on the West Shore would be forced back on the gridlocked Trans-Canada and Island highways, an idea that has some people concerned.

The Blue Boat service is critical to keeping more people off the roads, said Dan Spinner, CEO of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce. “And we hope that the base maintains it. It’s an important contribution to the local and regional transportation system.”

The vessels make 13 runs a day, Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., attracting a total daily ridership of about 800 passengers. Upwards of 9,000 passengers used the service in one month earlier this year.

An estimated 46 per cent of personnel are affected by the “Colwood crawl,” according to base data. There are more than 480 housing units at Colwood’s Belmont Park, the largest military housing community on the South Island.

More traffic on clogged transportation corridors doesn’t bode well for B.C Transit buses already struggling to keep to their schedules.

“Because of the increased congestion and construction we’ve seen across the Capital Region, our buses have slowed down from 25 to 20 kilometres an hour,”

Joanna Linsangan, B.C. Transit’s manager of public relations, said in a statement.

Given Ottawa’s history of making decisions about the base without feedback on local issues that affect local communities, “there’s always a concern with the Blue Boat disappearing,” Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said, adding this could happen if the government sees the service as an add-on and not valued for its contribution to the region or to hundreds of military and civilian defence commuters.

She plans to discuss the issue with CFB Esquimalt’s commander in the new year.

emccracken@vicnews.com

 

 

 

Just Posted

Easter Seal’s Drop Zone gives participants chance to rappel down 13-storey Victoria building

Event supports Easter Seal’s services, specifically their camp in Shawnigan

ArtsAlive voting begins Thursday in Oak Bay

Residents can vote for the 2019 ArtsAlive top prize

Tackling ‘one fear after another:’ ‘Spirit Orca’ swimmers ready for next challenge

Victoria swimmers with developmental disabilities preparing for ocean relay in Great Bear Rainforest

Derelict trimaran removed from Oak Bay waters

Boat has been aground near Oak Bay Marina for over five months

Tuesday will be mainly cloudy

Plus your weekly forecast

WATCH: Barbers battle it out in Victoria

‘Barber Battle’ saw stylists and barbers from across North America go head-to-head

Dash-cam video in trial of accused cop killer shows man with a gun

Footage is shown at trial of Oscar Arfmann, charged with killing Const. John Davidson of Abbotsford

Suicide confirmed in case of B.C. father who’d been missing for months

2018 disappearance sparked massive search for Ben Kilmer

Eight U.S. senators write to John Horgan over B.C. mining pollution

The dispute stems from Teck Resources’ coal mines in B.C.’s Elk Valley

Threats charge against Surrey’s Jaspal Atwal stayed

Atwal, 64, was at centre of controversy in 2018 over his attendance at prime minister’s reception in India

Anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to speak in Surrey

He’s keynote speaker at Surrey Environment and Business Awards luncheon by Surrey Board of Trade Sept. 17

Otters devour 150 trout at Kootenay hatchery

The hatchery has lost close to 150 fish in the past several months

B.C. church’s Pride flag defaced for second time in 12 days

Delta’s Ladner United Church says it will continue to fly the flag for Pride month

Update: Two shot, two arrested at Toronto Raptors victory rally

The team and several dignitaries, including Justin Trudeau, remained on stage

Most Read