From Saturna to Haida Gwaii, and from Victoria to the Chilcotin, a group composed of First Nations Council representatives, elected officials, grassroots organizers and concerned business owners, stand united in fighting the proposed April 1 BC Ferries cuts after a lengthy video-conference call, Thursday, Jan. 9th. The Sunshine Coast's BC Ferry Coalition has joined the fight. "The BC Ferry Coalition is a part of and fully supportive of the newly formed BC Coastal-Mainland Alliance which is demanding immediate action by the provincial government to stop the cuts and listen to the people," stated organizer Jef Keighley.
“We are an alliance of BC residents and businesses who are fighting for the 20% of British Columbians that rely on the ferries to connect them with their homes and their livelihoods,” said conference-call host Kathy Ramsey from Gabriola Island. “Our communities generate 36% of the province’s revenue. The people of BC cannot afford NOT to listen to us.”
“It’s in the interest of all British Columbians to recognize the ferry system as part of the overall provincial transportation network, and provide services and investment equal to that enjoyed by the rest of the province,” said Powell River Mayor David Formosa. "BC’s ferry fleet must be operated for the public good and economic well-being.”
The group calls on the Province to:
- immediately rescind the cuts that are already devastating many of their communities and economies, and guaranteed to sink tourism and business opportunities by summer 2014;
- engage in meaningful dialogue with the most directly affected stakeholders in the BC Ferries service: the residents of ferry-dependent communities;
- insist that BC Ferries and the Province re-commit to a long-term sustainable plan for the ferry fleet, and re-affirm that BC Ferries is an essential transportation service;
- instruct the Ferry Commissioner to actively oversee BC Ferries as an entity managed for the public good in oder to facilitate social and economic growth.
- ensure that fiscal fairness is practiced for the benefit of all communities: BC Ferries needs to be just as reliable, affordable and accessible as other provincial transportation infrastructure.
“We want BC residents to understand that last year ferry users paid 92% of the operating costs at the toll booth,” said BC Ferry Coalition’s Jim Cleghorn, a retired commercial banker of 35 years. “Many of our volunteer Ferry Advisory Committees have said they are willing to work with BC Ferries and the Province to explore cost reductions.”
The group feels that failure to address these conditions will result in significant economic and social losses that will affect all British Columbians.
“Smaller communities are going to sink further as a result of the cuts,” affirmed William Yovanovich of the Skidegate Band Council. “They will affect everything from medical travel, mail service, fresh produce and on and on. This is really a crisis with no time to explore possible options. Immediate action is needed."
“This is not just a coastal issue,” said Petrus Rykes, West Chilcotin Tourism Association. “Without adequate ferry service, Highway 20 is basically a dead-end road.”
Participants affirmed that the 2003 Coastal Ferry Act, which promised communities economic growth, improved service and a sustainable ferry system, had invited people to come settle in their communities, based on those promises.
“Families moved here, businesses were established, tourism was promoted on that basis," Rob Hellenius, Gabriola’s conference moderator, concluded. "People are already listing their homes and choosing to relocate their businesses elsewhere. Broken promises threaten the very homes and communities we built. This is a death knell to a thriving community."
The following coastal residents and leaders have signed this statement:
- Adam Olsen, Interm Leader, Green Party of BC
- April Vannini, Phd, Assoc. Faculty at Royal Roads University
- Brian Dearden, Chair, Mayne Island Chamber of Commerce
- Carly McMahon, Realtor, Gabriola Island
- Chris Abbott, President, BC Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union
- David Formosa, Mayor of Powell River
- Denman-Hornby Ferry Advisory Committee
- Ernest Hall, Director, Bella Coola Valley Tourism
- Heather Nicholas, Facebook "Faces of the Cuts” Campaign, Gabriola Island
- Jack Barr, President of the Powell River Chamber of Commerce
- Jef Keighley, BC Ferry Coalition, Sunshine Coast
- Jim Cleghorn, BC Ferry Coalition, Sunshine Coast
- Kathy Ramsey, Gabriola Island Business Owner, ArtsBC Director
- Lisa Rey, Gabriola Chamber of Commerce
- Mark Hendricks, Application Developer, Gabriola Island
- Michael Lynch, President, Discovery Islands Chamber of Commerce
- Patrick Hall, Powell River Chamber of Commerce
- Petrus Rykes, West Chilcotin Tourism Association
- Rob Hellinius, BC Marine Highway organizer, Gabriola Island
- Tony Law, Hornby Island Trustee
- Tobi Elliott, Filmmaker, Gabriola Island
- William Yovanovich, Skidegate Band Council, Skidegate Ferry Advisory Committee