Bridge study is not being done for Gabriolans’ sake

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News Editor

Monday, September 29 2014

In typical government fashion, the Transportation Ministry announced they are going to do the feasibility study for a fixed link to Gabriola. 

All they’ve revealed about the study so far is that the cost will be $200K and it will not take public opinion into account.

Terms of consultation: unknown. Ministry staff say those details will be revealed after an independent consultant has been chosen from a list of pre-approved companies.

Scope of consultation: unknown. The Ministry won’t confirm whether the consultant will be comparing a bridge that is free to cross; or whether there will be tolls and, if so, what the level of those tolls will be.

Prediction: if the bridge is built, the toll will be equal to whatever a single car and driver fare is on the Gabriola Ferry at the time the bridge is opened. Expect no savings on a single trip cost to Nanaimo.

The Ministry will not confirm whether this economic “study” is looking just at replacing the Gabriola Ferry with a bridge, or if other longer-term “benefits” will be considered - such as moving the major route terminals to Gabriola. Having the Duke Point and/or Departure Bay docks relocated to Gabriola would cut 30 to 45 minutes off those sailings. As Trustee Sheila Malcolmson has said many times, if a bridge is built to Gabriola, it is not going to be built for Gabriolans.

Petitions, for or against a bridge, have little to do with the Transport Minister’s sudden desire to look into a bridge to the island. And as for preserving the culture and heritage of the gulf islands, there is no self-interest for the BC Liberals to do that. 

Worst case, as far as this government is concerned, is that the community adapts to the bridge and the new order of things.

Best case, all those NDP voters have to move somewhere else where their votes are diluted into larger populations.

At one point, it was predicted that the government wouldn’t spend money on new terminal buildings in Nanaimo only to replace the route with a bridge. Now, as Island Ferries and other companies look to create alternatives to BC Ferries, it would be quite easy for BC Ferries (with the blessing of the Transportation Ministry) to sell off those assets, use the cash injection to post another year of “profit” and not have to worry about the expenses of running a boat to Gabriola. 

There is zero worry or concern about what Gabriolans think - either those for or against a bridge. 

The end goal here is to silence the Gabriola ferry riders. The ones who are way too successful at pointing out how badly the Liberals have messed up one of the largest ferry systems in the world.