qathet Regional District directors are supportive of initiatives of the region’s ferry advisory committee to reinstate cancelled sailings.
Chair Patrick Brabazon, at the June 25 board meeting, said he wanted to report on the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee. He said the board had an item of correspondence, which, he thinks, is critical and he wanted to raise it.
Brabazon said way back when, BC Ferries formed a group of local advisory committees, including one here. He said he was involved in the process very early in its stages and the committees just “bumbled along.”
“Then, the ferry advisory committees started to take some control of their own opinions and their own opposition,” said Brabazon. “In addition to that, the various selected chairs began to assert themselves, and you have a result of that on the agenda tonight, with our local chair, sending out a letter, to the ministry and BC Ferries, regarding the changes in the ferry scheduling, and the reduction of services, et cetera.”
Brabazon said that resulted in a meeting with the minister of transportation.
“I’ll go on record as understanding that it wasn’t the most pleasant teleconference with the minister,” said Brabazon. “However, the government got the word and they have reinstituted a bunch of sailings that had been cut.
“The reason why I am not going through what has actually happened, even though it has been reported in the paper, is this is still in a state of considerable flux. I’m going to wait until all of the dust has settled and the root scheduling is chipped in stone.”
Brabazon said he wanted to compliment the ferry advisory committees up and down the coast, and particularly, the chairs.
“They have done a superb job of dealing with both BC Ferries on the one hand, and the provincial government on the other,” said Brabazon. “Full marks to them.”
On the regional board’s list of correspondence was a letter from chair Kim Barton-Bridges to the premier, the minister of transportation and chief executive officer of BC Ferries regarding service reductions by BC Ferries, which were eventually reinstated by the province. In her letter, Barton-Bridges stated the advisory committee, along with others from around the province, had worked very hard to get back the sailings lost in the “harsh service cuts a number of years ago.”
She stated that BC Ferries had reinstated a number of these sailings, and the ferry advisory committees urgently requested the balance of sailings to be reinstated, which the province did. However, BC Ferries, in its contract with the province, labelled the sailings as discretionary, and due to the pandemic, anything discretionary was cut, said Barton-Bridges.
“BC Ferries wants to wait until sailings increase and the economy opens up before adding sailings,” stated Barton-Bridges. “How will the economies in coastal communities open up when there are six-hour waits at terminals? We need the sailings in order to recover.
“The rest of the province is not being told that their highways are closed for six hours at a time. We need help in our recovery, not cuts.”
In considering the correspondence at the regional board meeting, Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick said she thought Barton-Bridges had written a great letter. McCormick said it was interesting to hear that BC Ferries was reinstating certain sailings, “which will be most welcome.”
“I was thinking of asking if it would be of any benefit for the regional district to write a letter as well, but I think she (Barton-Bridges) has this well in hand, and if it’s netting some positive results, that’s great news,” said McCormick.
Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said he wanted to acknowledge and thank Barton-Bridges for a strongly worded letter.
He said his understanding is BC Ferries is losing upwards of $1.5 million per day. He added that one of the service cuts affected Quadra Island, where the provincial minister of transportation lives. He said if the minister brought back Quadra Island’s service, it would look like favouritism, so it was all or nothing.
Regional directors voted to receive the letter.