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General News · 16th February 2014
Uschi Koebberling
For those Cortes Islanders who are a bit confused about service cuts, surveys, and community responses, here’s a bit of background and what’s in the plans:

On 5 February the Consultant for the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure released its report of the Community Engagement about ferry services. The summary report is available at: http://www.coastalferriesengagement.ca .

Despite the overwhelming negative response to the proposed service cuts and price hikes, the BC government proceeded with their plans as indicated in a news release the same day. http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/coastalferriesengagement/documents/2013/NewsRelease-Feb5-2014-2014TRAN0010-000138.pdf

As was criticized at the time of the “Engagement process”, no economic and social impact assessment had been done. In response, the BC Union of Municipalities, the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs and Coastal Regional District Chairs announced the establishment of a Special Committee on BC Ferries (http://www.ubcm.ca/EN/meta/news/news-archive/2014-archive/special-committee-on-bc-ferries.html) and hired a consultant to conduct an analysis to estimate the economic significance of the proposed BC Ferries service reductions on communities. Input ended noon February 14 and a report is expected towards the end of this month.

Meanwhile, BC Ferries developed alternative options for some of the routes and hired a consultant to explore community input. The specifics for the proposed cuts to the Campbell River – Quadra service was the topic of Ester Strijbos’ Article in Tidelines on 13 February: Impact for Cortes - The Domino Effect . In short, either of BC Ferries proposed options has significant impacts for Cortes bound travelers. http://www.cortesisland.com/tideline/show6551a0x50y1z/Impact_for_Cortes_-_The_Domino_Effect
There has been debate about participation in the BCFC Survey. Most prominently opposed is Quadra Regional Director Jim Abrams (http://www.thegumboot.ca/show3313a). His argument is that by choosing one of the options, we buy into the concept of service reductions, when the clear community message is ‘no reductions’.

The BC Coastal Mainland Alliance (http://bcmarinehighway.org) (a coalition composed of First Nations council representatives, elected officials, grassroots organizers and concerned business owners from Saturna to Haida Gwaii to the Chilcotin ) and the BC Ferry Coalition (http://www.bcferrycoalition.com/) are organizing the Defend Our Marine Highways Rally on the lawn of the Provincial Legislature from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Tuesday, March 11th.

Initially, Paul Ryan, our Ferry Advisory Committee Chair, encouraged people to participate in the BC Ferries’ survey and use the comments section to express their opinion. Today, Paul alerted us FAC members that he and Jim agreed that “we should postpone the survey being done on the 2 pm sailing until we see the results of the protest in Victoria on March 11th. Jim feels it is sending the wrong message and I can't disagree.” So it’s stay put for the time being and proceed with a Plan B later in March. The impacts of BC Ferries suggested mid-day service cut on Cortes travel would then be part of the discussion.

Here’s an interesting article by Stephen Hume of the Vancouver Sun about the impacts of the ferry cuts: www.vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/Stephen+Hume+Rising+ferry+fares+service+cuts+economic/9483410/story.html

There is also a special website dealing with the elimination of the mid-Island ferry service between Port Hardy and Bella Coola: http://savethediscoverycoastferry.ca. BC Tourism believes the route actually puts some $60,000 into the provincial treasury more than their proposed savings when one considers overall provincial revenues from the tourism industry.

In my personal opinion: In the grand tradition of Canadian politics we are to be punished for voting for the opposition.
Uschi Koebberling, FAC Member