Powell River Regional District board accepted a recommendation from its committee of the whole, to provide a letter to the BC Coastal Ferries Community Engagement process expressing its deep concerns about how ferry service reductions are being implemented.
The cuts to service were announced by the province in November 2013 and will affect 1,293 scheduled runs between Powell River and Texada Island, Vancouver Island and the Lower Sunshine Coast.
At the top of the board’s hit list were service cuts imposed on top of fare increases—3.5 per cent implemented Friday, January 17, and four per cent on April 1—that are above the current rate of inflation. The letter also pointed out that there has been a lack of analysis of social or economic impacts on coastal communities.
Colin Palmer, board chair and Electoral Area C director, stated that sailings are crucial to medical services and emergencies, education, youth arts programs, gainful employment of people who commute for work using the ferry service and sports teams that depend upon regular ferry service.
The board believes the community was not given an adequate opportunity to weigh in on the proposed ferry cutbacks and there was a lack of sufficient information in the face of sweeping service reductions.
“We’ve not been given adequate time or resources to identify alternative options,” said Palmer. “There has been a lack of true citizen engagement and consultation, which is supposed to be a two-way dialogue where participation and input is meaningful and at least has the possibility of affecting policy decisions.”
The board also identified that a previous contractual requirement for BC Ferries to provide appropriate advance notice of schedule changes had been abandoned.
“There has been a complete lack of due regard for principles articulated in the Coastal Ferry Service contract, which states that ‘the coastal ferry service is integral to economic growth and development,’” Palmer said.
The board noted that language in the Coastal Ferry Act, which takes the interests of ferry users into consideration, was also overlooked.
Best in business
Nominations for 2014 Horizon Business Awards close at 3 pm on Tuesday, January 21.
A new and a returning award are featured among the list of awards that honour the best in business among Powell River enterprises.
An agricultural award will be given to a business that has distinguished itself and shows leadership by promoting the betterment of agriculture in the region.
“We have so many farms producing and selling their crops that it is time to recognize the best among them,” said Kim Miller, manager of Powell River Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber is the main sponsor for the event along with partners Community Futures Development Corporation and Peak Publishing.
Returning to the awards list for 2014 is the tourism category. To be nominated a business should have demonstrated a superior ability to provide an outstanding visitor experience and actively encourage the growth of the Powell River region as a tourist destination.
“This award was presented for several years before being replaced,” said Miller. “Our chamber board decided to bring it back this year.”
Winners will be announced at a banquet beginning at 6 pm Saturday, February 1, at Dwight Hall. Tickets are $50 each or $350 for a table of eight. They can be purchased at the chamber office at 6807 Wharf Street near the ferry terminal.
A nomination form can be found on page 19 in this issue or it can be filled out online. “All entries are submitted to a judging panel for a final decision,” said Miller. “It is not based on the number of entries a business receives.”
For more information, readers can call Miller at 604.485.4051.