VIDEO – BC Ferries’ proposed elimination of 6,900 sailings annually on 16 routes across coastal BC brought hundreds of protesters out on Saturday, January 18, along the Sunshine Coast.
A prevalent concern among protesters at the Westview ferry terminal in Powell River was if the proposed cutbacks are put in place, it will suffocate businesses, stifle tourism, shackle local sports teams who often need to travel to compete, and cut off equitable trade among coastal communities and the mainland.
“BC Ferries’ scheduling and rampant increases under the guise of fuel surcharges are hurting our business in Powell River,” said Karen Skadsheim, instigator of Townsite Brewing. “They’ve driven the situation to unsustainable heights. And we’re all about sustainability in Powell River.”
Pete Stiles, who works with Lafarge Canada Inc.’s Texada Quarry, said there are some 30 workers who commute from Powell River to Texada Island to work five days a week. “[BC Ferries] is threatening these guys’ livelihood,” he said. “Right now they’re using the water taxi service, and it’s not too bad, but when all those sailings are cut out of the loop what’s going to happen then? As it is, it’s costing each guy three or four hundred bucks a month in ferry fares alone. BC Ferries is taking away a good chunk of the service but charging people more for what’s left.”
Mike Verdiel, president of Unifor’s CEP (Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada) Local 76, said it was as if the government had been untruthful the whole time. “They said they weren’t going to cut services, and then they turn around and downsize ferry services that people depend on to make a living,” said Verdiel. “I’ve got two daughters who play soccer. It’s already tough enough for teams to get back and forth to games. As it is we have to beg teams from [Vancouver] Island and from the [Lower] Mainland to come and play here. Now we’re putting our teams on a ferry that’s not even suited to the run.”
In his opinion, it seems as though BC Ferries is trying its best to make things as bad as they can be. “Then, at the last minute, they can step back and say ‘okay, we’re good guys after all. We’ll offer you a choice: we can cut this, or we can cut that. Take your pick.’”
BC Ferries Coalition spokesperson Jef Keighley confirmed late Saturday that turnout was good at nine locations on the Sunshine Coast to demonstrate against what many are calling gross mismanagement of BC highway infrastructure.
Natasha Blanchette helped organize the demonstration at Westview which was attended by Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons and City of Powell River councillor Debbie Dee. Both voiced their support of the protest.
Residents turn out for ferry protest
MLA and councillor speak in support of action
Protesters gathered at nine locations up and down the Sunshine Coast on Saturday, January 18, with good turnouts everywhere, according to BC Ferries Coalition spokesperson Jef Keighley. The coordinated effort was spearheaded by the coalition in response to BC Ferries' proposed elimination of 6,900 sailings annually on 16 routes, including three involving Powell River.
A prevalent concern among protesters was that if the cutbacks are put in place, it will suffocate businesses, stiffle tourism, shackle local sports teams who often need to travel to compete and cut off equitable trade among coastal communities and the mainland.
Estimates for the turnout at the Powell River terminal run as many as 1000 protestors in attendance. People came and went throughout the event.
Sunshine Coast Powell River MLA Nicholas Simons and City of Powell River councillor Debbie Dee attended the event and voiced their support for the protest.