Regarding, "$200,000 study is nine months late" letter in Nov. 24 Sounder

Thursday, December 3 2015

Your letter says that the $200,000 bridge feasibility study funds could have been better used to deal with child poverty, supporting food banks and even looking at alternative energy sources. Bridge Free Salish Sea is committed to supporting the Islands Trust regarding no fixed links to any of the Gulf Islands and are strongly opposed to any fixed link.

I find this a well-meaning but misinformed opinion. The no bridge stance forces islanders to rely totally on a BC ferry for all transport of people and material to and from the island. BC Ferries has cost us $150 million in the past 30 years and is projected to cost a further $1 billion in the next 30 years. That is more than the complete island is worth on the property market. This projection is based upon BCF’s own track record of inflation which is up to four times the cost of living inflation and as time goes on that BCF expense cost will escalate exponentially as fuel costs keeps rising, salaries for ferry workers and management keep rising, costs of ships, docks, maintenance and material all keep rising. 

Over half that BCF expense cost is born by the BC taxpayers who are subsidizing our unique island lifestyle and who, I am sure, would rather spend it on more worthwhile causes like childhood poverty and food banks. The government obviously agrees and has had a policy of moving towards 100 per cent user pay on BCF small routes for the last 12 years, which has severely impacted the economy of the island. It has also downgraded property values by 16 per cent in just the last four years alone, forced many to reduce their use of the ferry or sell up and move off the island, which only exacerbates the problem more.

As we will likely find out when the feasibility study is released, a bridge will cost less than the ferry. 

The following figures are what I have; the study may have more accurate data: a bridge would cost four times less than the ferry in the next 30 years and could be covered with the existing provincial subsidy. 

It would fix costs through a mortgage or bond for those 30 years and then be debt free. Ongoing bridge physical maintenance is a small fraction of ship maintenance costs. A bridge might also prevent the destruction of Gabriola Island’s economy that reliance on a costly BC ferry will surely bring.

I am afraid that your bridge free stance is counter-productive to your stated goals of supporting the poor. If it continues you will drive people off the island but then perhaps that is your real goal, a non-people Gulf Island park? If so, then please buy the properties at fair market value, not force them into receivership first.

~ Jeremy Baker on behalf of the Gabriola Bridge Society.