In addressing the impacts on coastal communities by the intended BC Ferries cutbacks individual residents have expressed their concerns and published their letters for us to read. In January 2014, on www.ourcortes.com
, the Executive of the Cortes Island Business and Tourism Association /CIBATA also stepped up to the plate with the following:
-"We, the Cortes Island Tourist and Business Association (CIBATA), are an organization whose mission is to promote Cortes Island as a year round tourism destination, in turn supporting a sustainable and growing local economy. We represent vacation rental accommodations, eco-tourism operators, shops, restaurants, grocery stores, marinas, and other business services that cater to visitors (includes almost all businesses on the Island).
Our members are unanimous in their concern over the rising costs and the proposed reduction in ferry services to Vancouver Island and thence on to our island. Previously we have had a viable and vibrant economy and a diverse cross section of people living here. But businesses have suffered severe setbacks with the economic down turn accompanied by a large increase in ferry rates, so that many will have little chance of rallying without a major change in strategy by the B.C. Ferry Corporation.
The percentage of retirees has grown disproportionately compared to the numbers of younger workers and their families who can still afford to remain on the island. The increased cost of shipping goods to and from Cortes discourages business ventures from taking off or prospering. All this leads to the fracturing and the isolation of families, increasing the need for them to travel for support services that are no longer available locally.
We are witnessing a downward spiral where the presence of fewer families leads to fewer people, which leads to discontinued services and decreased business opportunity, all negatively impacting the health of the island economy and the stability of our community’s social support systems.
Tourism is the foremost growing industry on the West Coast, and many visitors to B.C. have traditionally come from the U.S. If ferry service continues to be inaccessible or out of step with the Washington State ferry service, U.S. travelers may have more incentive to choose the affordable option rather than range farther from home.
Cortes Island competes with many destinations that have NO costly ferry fares with which to contend. We strongly feel that as Canadians and Provincial residents, we should share the benefits of a free Provincial Transportation system. All Island residents and businesses have been saddled with an unfair disadvantage since the B.C. Ferry Corporation decided to sever us from the Provincial highway system. We are not on a level playing field at this time.
Rather than alienating small businesses at every turn, government should be encouraging our endeavours to maintain a well balanced, sustainable community. Taxes can not be collected from an emptied coffer.
Sincerely, the Executive members of Cortes Business and Tourism Association " -
In stark contrast to the thrust of the above statements, in a recent Tideline notice - Cortes Presence Vancouver Outdoor Adventure & Travel Show - we learn Cortes Business and Tourism is off to Vancouver to advertise the island not only as a year-round tourist mecca - it is a pristine environment with a community of laid back residents (conjuring up a place free of the anxieties and stresses of urbanites); and an affordable local destination easily accessible from Vancouver and beyond.. etc.
If we want to reinforce on decision makers and a supportive public the likely impacts of the proposed Ferry changes, sending mixed messages undermines the credibility of any valid concerns of locals, and contributes to a lack of understanding of what is at stake for Cortes Island. You decide.