Change is good at BC Ferries

Editorial

Wednesday, February 27 2019

For those who were on the front lines of fighting the ferry cutbacks in 2014, this past week’s announcement had to have been a huge affirmation of everything that was being said.

The ferries are our highway. 

Our connection to the rest of the world.

Essential.

And that the ones holding the purse strings are the ones who make the change happen.

Had the BC Liberal Government not mandated the cutbacks, had the Liberals chosen to spend the monies to maintain the schedules, BC Ferries would not have made the cutbacks.

2,700 sailings restored to 10 routes sounds great in a government press release.

But we’re still waiting to see what that looks like when the ‘new’ schedule is released.

It’s possible Gabriola once again has a 5:25 sailing leaving in the morning. It’s possible we could go back to having an 11pm departure from Gabriola and an 11:30pm departure from Nanaimo.

It’s likely that we’ll get to have afternoon sailings on weekends for the entire year.

The two vessels which are to replace the Quinsam aren’t due until 2021. And we don’t know when in 2021 they’ll get here.

So we have at least two, if not three, busy spring and summer seasons to get through before those ships arrive.

There is mounting pressure for the NDP to force BC Ferries to have ships built in BC.

Ships should be built in BC. The Redlin Report showed BC Ferries intends to spend $1.2 billion over the next nine years for an expected 14 new replacement vessels (including two for Gabriola’s route).

The report also showed that if that $1.2 billion was spent in BC, not only would those monies stay in BC, there would be an additional $330.94 million paid in federal taxes; as well as $180.49 million in provincial taxes.

Not to mention the 4,906 additional jobs created.

So...ships really should be built in BC.

But not if it means putting the ship replacement program on hold until BC is able to compete both financially and physically with the yards in Poland and Romania, where BC Ferries is currently building ships.

The Quinsam has been shown to be insufficient to serve the Gabriola run. There are other routes in the system which also need replacements. As much as ship building in BC would be good for the overall economy; and create jobs in the urban areas where such shipyards are likely to be built - the communities the actual ships will work are in need of ships sooner, rather than later.

Jobs are at risk, local economies are at risk, in island communities.

BC Ferries has an approved design. They have a yard that can produce the ships, a yard which is already building the first ships of the same 50-vehicle class that Gabriola and other minor routes will be receiving.

A ship design which - if it is built as advertised - is coming as a diesel-electric hybrid - convertible to fully electric once there are batteries and on-shore charging facilities put in place. That’s better for the fares at the ticket booth; and better for the environment.

Delaying the ships construction will not only be detrimental to island economies, it will also delay getting the BC Ferries fuels further out of the fossil fuel dependence.

Island communities have been waiting, and working, for a very long time for changes to be put into the ferry system.

There should not be a delay in getting the replacement ships in place which will further improve ferry service to our communities.