In a series of high-priority letters, North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is calling on the federal minister of transportation to show British Columbians the reasoning behind the recent decision that bans ferry passengers from remaining on the lower car decks during the COVID pandemic.
“A government-knows-bestattitude from Transport Canada in Ottawa is obviously not inspiring confidence here on the west coast,” stated Blaney in a media release.
Blaney wrote to minister Marc Garneau on September 10 objecting to the ministry’s decision to rescind an exception that allowed passengers to remain in their vehicles on several routes, including the Powell River-Comox ferry, in order to decrease contact during the pandemic, the release stated. Since the announcement that the exception would end September 30, according to the release, many coastal residents who rely on the ferries, as well as workers, community leaders and the BC government, have raised concerns.
“The COVID-19 pandemic will not be over by September 30,” stated Blaney. “The risk of transmission in enclosed spaces, such as ferry passenger decks on busy sailings, remains high.”
Minister Garneau responded to the letter on September 14, suggesting that “wearing a face mask, washing your hands regularly, and physical distancing” were enough to mitigate the risk of COVID transmission while on board, and that passengers can simply ask to be loaded onto partially enclosed decks instead, the release stated.
In her response on September 15, Blaney asked again for the data or risk-assessment that supported the decision. The release stated she also asked what measures Transport Canada is taking to ensure safety of passengers and BC Ferries workers who have been bearing the brunt of passenger’s frustration adding, “there is an obvious disconnect between the decisions being made at Transport Canada and what is happening on the ground.”