Cuts to ferry service too deep

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News Editor

Monday, November 25 2013

9:30 am this past monday, the BC Government, specifically the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, announced the last two round trips in the Gabriola ferry schedule would be cut, permanently. It would also be reducing the seniors Monday to Thursday discount from 100% to 50%.

Towards the end of the press conference, the minister also said once these changes are implemented, and another $4.9 million is ‘saved’ on the major routes come 2016, the ministry would start looking at other ways to improve efficiencies, which might include things like, well, a fixed link (which is ministry’s way of saying a bridge).

To say the sticky stuff hit the fan when the news started to get out to Jane and Joe Public would be an understatement.

And the rage expressed this past week is completely justified. 

This is not the cost of living on an island. 

For all of the reasons Janina lists below in her column, this is going to impact Gabriola.

Many of us who have come to Gabriola or grew up on Gabriola in the past 30 years have done so with the unspoken understanding that this is the gulf island that has late ferry access. 

This will cost us families, this will cost us people from amongst our already dwindling working population.

To quote Trustee Sheila Malcolmson, “If the BC government had done what we had expected they were going to do and what we asked them to do....to let the community know what the targets were for savings on our run and ask the community to identify what solutions might be out there, we would have a different and dynamic exercise.

“As opposed to the extreme top-down and provocative way they have approached this. Now they’re going to come out to your community and hear what you think about that.”

There was no study done, by the province or BC Ferries, to calculate what kind of social or economic impact these changes to the schedule and seniors discount is going to have on our Gabriola, or by extension, the rest of coastal BC.

All this, to save a paltry $400,000 a year on the Gabriola route. Most islanders would say there is more room at the top of the corporation’s food chain for cuts than there is in the service it provides.

Remember this one fact every time someone says the province subsidizes the ferry system so much already: for every dollar the province provides to BC Ferries, the users of the system spend five dollars.

The rest of the province isn’t having to fork over $5 every time they drive over a dollar’s worth of ministry-maintained highway.

If ever there was a time for islanders to group together and voice a collective “hell no” (and then provide better alternatives), the December 10 meeting with the Ministry would be it.