The provincial government last week stripped away your resident priority boarding status on Route 3. But if you were listening to their spin, you would think you gave it up to help people who need it much more than you do. That’s why they call it spin.
Last Thursday, the province put out a news release entitled “Emergency order enacted to provide medical-assured loading on ferries.” It sounded like a big deal: “Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth is using extraordinary powers under the state of provincial emergency to ensure BC Ferries can implement all procedures necessary to provide priority medical-assured loading on the first available vessel for any individual, their vehicle and an escort, as part of the Province’s continued COVID-19 pandemic response.”
It went on in the same vein for another 150 words before disclosing, almost as an aside, that the government was “also rescinding some emergency measures … including priority access for passengers sailing to their primary residence.”
Later in the day, BC Ferries put out its own release on this latest development. This time the headline was: “Province removes priority-boarding for residents of ferry sailing destinations.” The release gave the next day, July 31, as the implementation date. Nowhere in the text was medical-assured loading even mentioned.
When Deborah Marshall of BC Ferries was asked for an explanation, she replied: “We already have a medical assured loading program in place. We are just in receipt of that order and are working out the details.”
As it turned out, there was very little change to the existing policy. Medical-assured loading is still not available for “general, elective or routine doctor, dentist or specialist appointments.” It is strictly intended “for those in need of urgent care where an extended wait at the terminal would cause risk to their health.” As always, a doctor’s letter must state that the individual qualifies under the eligibility criteria. And as always, people with only a TAP form do not get priority boarding.
Contrary to Mr. Farnworth’s boast that “these new provisions will ensure that medical-assured loading is protected for people travelling by ferry for medical treatment,” many people will continue to be excluded and forced to wait hours to get to their appointments. Some will miss them and have to do it all over again.
So why all the spin? Governments know that it can be awkward and even risky, politically speaking, to provide a service to constituents and then take it away. When the NDP took away your resident priority, the strategy was to obfuscate it by making it sound like a big win for people travelling for medical reasons.
But what did they actually deliver for those people? Almost nothing.
Truly, what a cynical ploy.