by coastal community representatives From Saturna Island to Haida Gwaii, and from Victoria to the Chilcotin, a group composed of First Nations Council representatives, elected officials, grassroots organizers and concerned business owners, stand united in fighting the proposed April 1 BC Ferries cuts after a lengthy video-conference call, Thursday, January 9.
“We are an alliance of BC residents and businesses who are fighting for the 20 per cent of British Columbians that rely on the ferries to connect them with their homes and their livelihoods,” said conference-call host Kathy Ramsey from Gabriola Island. “Our communities generate 36 per cent of the province’s revenue. The people of BC cannot afford not to listen to us.”
“It’s in the interest of all British Columbians to recognize the ferry system as part of the overall provincial transportation network, and provide services and investment equal to that enjoyed by the rest of the province,” said City of Powell River Mayor David Formosa. “BC’s ferry fleet must be operated for the public good and economic well-being.”
“We want BC residents to understand that last year ferry users paid 92 per cent of the operating costs at the toll booth,” said BC Ferry Coalition’s Jim Cleghorn, a retired commercial banker of 35 years. “Many of our volunteer ferry advisory committees have said they are willing to work with BC Ferries and the province to explore cost reductions.”
“Smaller communities are going to sink further as a result of the cuts,” affirmed William Yovanovich of the Skidegate Band Council. “They will affect everything from medical travel, mail service, fresh produce and on and on. This is really a crisis with no time to explore possible options. Immediate action is needed.”
“This is not just a coastal issue,” said Petrus Rykes, West Chilcotin Tourism Association. “Without adequate ferry service, Highway 20 is basically a dead-end road.”
The group calls on the province to:
• immediately rescind the cuts that are already devastating many of their communities and economies, and guaranteed to sink tourism and business opportunities by summer 2014;
• engage in meaningful dialogue with the most directly affected stakeholders in the BC Ferries service: the residents of ferry-dependent communities;
• insist that BC Ferries and the province re-commit to a long-term sustainable plan for the ferry fleet, and re-affirm that BC Ferries is an essential transportation service;
• instruct the Ferry Commissioner to actively oversee BC Ferries as an entity managed for the public good in order to facilitate social and economic growth;
• ensure that fiscal fairness is practiced for the benefit of all communities: BC Ferries needs to be just as reliable, affordable and accessible as other provincial transportation infrastructure.
Failure to address these conditions will result in significant economic and social losses that will affect all British Columbians.
Participants affirmed that the 2003 Coastal Ferry Act, which promised communities economic growth, improved service and a sustainable ferry system, had invited people to come settle in their communities, based on those promises.
“Families moved here, businesses were established, tourism was promoted on that basis,” Rob Hellenius, Gabriola’s conference moderator, concluded. “People are already listing their homes and choosing to relocate their businesses elsewhere. Broken promises threaten the very homes and communities we built. This is a death knell to a thriving community.”
This letter is signed by City of Powell River Mayor Dave Formosa, Powell River Chamber of Commerce president Jack Barr and 20 other participants concerned about the affect of cuts to BC Ferries service.
Adam Olsen, Interm Leader, Green Party of BC
April Vannini, Phd, Assoc. Faculty at Royal Roads University
Brian Dearden, Chair, Mayne Island Chamber of Commerce
Carly McMahon, Realtor, Gabriola Island
Chris Abbott, President, BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union
Denman-Hornby Ferry Advisory Committee
Ernest Hall, Director, Bella Coola Valley Tourism
Heather Nicholas, Facebook "Faces of the Cuts” Campaign, Gabriola Island
Jef Keighley, BC Ferry Coalition, Sunshine Coast
Jim Cleghorn, BC Ferry Coalition, Sunshine Coast
Kathy Ramsey, Gabriola Island Business Owner, ArtsBC Director
Lisa Rey, Gabriola Chamber of Commerce
Mark Hendricks, Application Developer, Gabriola Island
Michael Lynch, President, Discovery Islands Chamber of Commerce
Patrick Hall, Powell River Chamber of Commerce
Petrus Rykes, West Chilcotin Tourism Association
Rob Hellinius, BC Marine Highway organizer, Gabriola Island
Tony Law, Hornby Island Trustee
Tobi Elliott, Filmmaker, Gabriola Island
William Yovanovich, Skidegate Band Council, Skidegate Ferry Advisory Committee