(File photo)

Ferry tax break, Commonwealth Games bid among BC Liberals promises for Vancouver Island

Victoria area amalgamation investigation, Malahat fix, Cathedral Grove protection also on the agenda

A tax break of up to $250 for Vancouver Islanders who use the ferry, a $25-million upgrade for the Malahat and other local highways, and a Victoria-based bid to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games highlight the BC Liberal plan for Vancouver Island.

Also on the agenda is a pledge to look at service integration and possibly amalgamation for municipalities in Greater Victoria and a new, unspecified plan for the future of Cathedral Grove Provincial Park.

These are among the planks in the Liberals’ first-ever Vancouver Island platform, announced last fall in Nanaimo and revealed on Monday as part of the party’s election campaign kickoff.

“We’ve delivered a made-on-the-Island plan that speaks to our own unique needs, priorities, and opportunities,” platform chair and outgoing Comox Valley MLA Don McRae said in a media release. “It’s about building on strength and creating a bright future in our Island communities.”

The party is calling these promises Island-developed ideas adopted in line with its overall platform of middle class tax cuts and job creation.

More details:

* The Liberals say they ultimately plan to develop a loyalty program to reduce the cost of ferry travel for frequent users. In the meantime, people will be able to deduct 25 per cent of their ferry fares annually, up to $1,000, for a $250 saving.

* The party is also promising to invest $1 million to improve BC Ferries wifi.

* The failure of Durban South Africa to follow through on plans to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games has Games organizers scrambling. The Liberals want to fill the gap with a Victoria-based bid and, in the process, create legacy housing to address the south Island housing crunch.

* They have targeted job creation investments in Campbell River’s BC Salmon Research centre, the hiking master plan being drafted by Tourism Vancouver Island, the Mid-Island Forest Strategy spearheaded by the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Comox Valley Agriplex.

* They are pledging a full review of the local governance structure within the Capital Regional District, with the caveat that communities that want to opt out can.

* Unspecified investments are proposed for Victoria’s Ogden Point cruise ship terminal aimed at turning the facility into the home port for at least two ships by 2021.

* In addition to the Malahat, road improvements promised include work on the Pat Bay Highway, the McKenzie interchange, the North Courtenay Connector and the West Shore Parkway Extension.

* The party has pledged $49.5 million towards the marine, automotive and trades complex expansion at Vancouver Island University and $31 million for the Health Sciences Centre at the Interurban campus of Camosun College.

* Other education initiatives in the plan include a new truck logger training credit and closed containment aquaculture research funding for North Island College.

* Communications connectivity will also be addressed with high-speed internet for all Island communities by 2021.

“This platform reflects who Islanders are: optimistic, hardworking people with a deep connection to their home,” said Parksville-Qualicum candidate Michelle Stilwell. “It’s about creating more jobs in communities across the Island, so that more young Islanders have the opportunity to stay and build a career close to home.”

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