Letter: I love ferries

Tuesday, November 21 2017

It’s fair to say that my car has not escaped the notice of BC Ferries management - specifically my bumper stickers. I’ve been happily driving my decorated Kia to FAC meetings for years. I’ve also heard a few times that it’s been spotted on one ferry or another, and comments have been made. And then there was that one time at Trust Council on Galiano when then-CEO Mike Corrigan decided to take a break from his canned speech to tell us all what he thought about the vehicle in the parking lot that “didn’t want a cruise ship - just a bus.” He even took pictures which, he somewhat gleefully informed the audience, he’d sent to his whole management team. I didn’t know whether to be proud that I’d pissed him off a bit, angry that my privacy had been invaded, or embarrassed to have drawn attention to myself - so I settled for all three.

Anyway, until the past week’s FAC meeting, I thought that everyone was so used to my stickers by now that they were basically part of the wallpaper. I thought after all this time that no one really noticed them anymore. To be honest, I barely think about them, beyond finding them a handy way to differentiate my vehicle from the thousands of other silver hatchbacks out there.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Imagine my surprise when at the meeting, Darin Guenette, who happens to be the Manager of Public Affairs for BCF (and as such comes in for quite a bit of attitude from yours truly), suddenly announced that he did have an item of new business, but that he had wanted to wait specifically for me to be there before he brought it up. Then, before I had a chance to dive under the table or run out the door, he turned to me and presented me with the sticker on the left. Seems BCF has been trying to come up with a response to my bumper stickers for a while.

And you know what? Once I got over the shock, I was delighted. Well played Mr. Guenette, well played. Because it’s true. I do love ferries, and I believe that most of my fellow islanders feel the same. We hate the overloads, we are more than aggravated by the problems with schedule and capacity, and we despise the affordability issues. We despair over the service cuts that were mandated by the previous government and I, for one, will never miss an opportunity to remind BCF that they have a social contract with coastal communities. Ferries are vital to the sustainability of our islands, and it’s my fervent hope that under the current government it’s not too late to reverse the gutting of the system that began with the Coastal Ferry Act of 2003 and reached its apex (or nadir) with the devastating cuts of 2014.

But the ferries, the actual ships that link us island to island and islander to islander throughout the Salish Sea? Darin is right. I do love them. That’s why, all those years ago, I got active in organizing ferry protests. That’s why I dreamed up Faces of the Cuts, and then got the amazing Vanessa Haentjens Dekker to help me make it real. That’s why I spend hours trying to think of new and better ways to speak truth to power about our ferry system. It’s probably a large part of why I found my way into local government. And that’s why I’m going to keep sitting on the FAC and advocating for a ferry system that meets our needs and will help us grow healthy, diverse and vibrant communities.

So yes, BC Ferries, I accept your sticker. I even appreciate it. But don’t think for a second that if I add it to my collection, it means that I’m going to be any less vocal about what I think you need to do to improve our ferry service. Because that’s not going to happen - in fact with the upcoming review of BCF by the Province, I’m just getting warmed up. 

Be ready for me.

~ Heather O’Sullivan