Harbour authority and businesses say city overstepping with cruise ship regulations

WatchVictoria's harbour authority and businesses are speaking out tonight, after a plan to regulate the cruise industry went public late Friday afternoon. The motion Is an effort by the mayor and some councillors to reduce emissions, but critics say the city has jumped the gun. Julian Kolsut reports.

A motion by Victoria’s mayor and some city councillors has the Harbour Authority and some businesses speaking out.

Mayor Helps, and councillors Marianne Alto and Ben isitt are asking for:

  • That council request that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority not increase the number of cruise ships coming to Victoria, sign any long-term contracts, or consider home-porting cruise ships until the emissions and waste issues are dealt with to the satisfaction of the City’s Director of Engineering and Public Works.
  • That council request that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority work more aggressively with the cruise ship industry to install shore power at Ogden Point.
  • That council direct staff to report back on the city’s jurisdiction on regulations for the cruise ship industry with respect to waste and emissions, and on the potential of requiring shore power by a particular date in order to significantly reduce and eventually eliminate the negative impact of waste, carbon emissions and particulate matter from the ships while they are in the City of Victoria.
  • That council request that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority publicly report to council on the recent study it commissioned which outlines the impact of cruise operations on the environment.

“We all care about climate change, we all care about the environment, but we take it in steps and make the right changes, and make the right effect that doesn’t effect our economy and city,” said Al Hasham, a Victoria business owner and a director from the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

Hasham says that the city going forward with the motion and not working closer with the Greater Victoria Harbour authority has already likely caused damage.

“You see it around the summer, it’s vibrant, we have a vibrant city, do not kill it,” he added.

Lisa Helps says the authority has been working to implement environmental changes on the ground, but is not pushing the cruise industry hard enough.

“The cruise industry is not responding adequately to a climate emergency, they have a goal of cutting emission by 50 per cent by 2050, but that doesn’t fit with the Paris Accord and that doesn’t fit with Victoria’s goals either,” said Helps on Friday.

The harbour authority did not expect the move.

“I am surprised and disappointed by the mayor’s motion, where we agree is more can be done, a lot has been done, more can be done,” said Ian Robertson, the CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

“Where we disagree is on the path forward and how we get there. I was hoping the approach taken by the mayor could be more collaborative.”

Robertson says even though other cities across the globe who have made the changes regulate their harbour authorities, here is different.

“We’ve been obviously watching the events around the world…  the state or the city owns the port, so they can control,” said Robertson.

“In this case, the property and the access to the port is operated and owned by the harbour authority. So it would be an interesting conversation if they wanted to do that… I hope we never get there.”

Hasham says its a concerning move.

“For them to try to tie businesses hands, that is very concerning. People in business are taking a risk… why make it even more difficult?” he said.

A Harbour Authority report looking at exploring shore power and other ways to mitigate the environmental impact will be released next week. In the report is the possibility of implementing shore power, but the costs and difficulty to construct the plug are major.

The James Bay Neighbourhood Association is applauding the move, saying it follows years of major environmental impacts.

The motion will be up for debate Thursday.

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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