I received a phone call a couple of nights ago from a polite young man who invited me to participate in a BC Ferries online survey about the proposed "budgetary" service cuts. I feel a bit foolish now for believing, for a day or so, that BCF had realised they were about to make an error and were soliciting more community input. I thought perhaps they wanted, belatedly, to assess the impacts of the proposed hatchet-job on coastal routes. When I did start to fill out the survey... well, you will find below the email I sent to the nice young man. Until this morning I was not quite sure how I felt about Jim Abram's position on the survey; having seen it I am now in full agreement.-------------------------
Dear Mr Shepherd
I started to complete the survey in which I was invited to participate, but I regret to inform you I am unable to continue. I had thought that the survey might ask relevant questions about ferry service to my area, in order that BC Ferries and the Province might better understand the implications of proposed schedule changes. Instead, I find that I am asked to prefer one of only two choices: the proposed Provincial schedule changes, or BC Ferries' counterproposal.
All larger issues aside, these choices are framed so as to pit Cortes Island against Quadra Island; either Quadra Islanders lose their evening service to Campbell River, or Cortes Islanders are severely impacted by daytime cuts and a substantial degradation of connection timing. In either case, the savings to BC Ferries is minute compared to the impact on local communities.
The entire process seems highly questionable. I can't put it any more clearly than this well-researched article in the Vancouver Sun, which I request that you read in full and pass on to your management: Go to provincial budget documents and the money applied to improving rural oil and gas access roads, highway connector improvements in the Cariboo, capital projects for provincial transit plans and the Port Mann Bridge are all described as transportation “investments.”
Funding for the ferry service is always described as a “subsidy.”
But capital and operating costs for ferry infrastructure don’t differ from other taxpayer supported capital costs for highways, bridges — and ‘free’ ferries on Interior lakes and rivers — except in government statements which frame BC Ferries as a “cost” and the others as a “benefit.”
Coastal ferry users actually pay more than 90 per cent of the system’s operating costs, the Islands Trust argues. Transit users in Metro Vancouver pay 52 per cent of operating costs, according to TransLink, with the balance provided by taxpayers at large.
(Stephen Hume, Feb 7 2014, "Rising BC ferry fares and service cuts an economic disaster": http://www.vancouversun.com/opinion/columnists/Stephen+Hume+Rising+ferry+fares+service+cuts+economic/9483410/story.html)
It is hard to understand why coastal communities are being singled out for this political and economic vandalism, when the net effect (as Hume points out) is likely to cost the province more in lost revenues than the alleged savings.
Since completion of the BCF survey would give the impression that I approve of either of the options being offered to us, or that I accept the arguments being made for service cuts, I am unable to complete it. To do so would give a false impression of my own - and I think general - opinion on this matter.
The voter dissatisfaction and anger being generated by this arbitrary, inconsistent, and ultimately fictitious "savings" plan should not be underestimated. Voters are not unaware of the opulent salaries and bonuses being claimed by top BC Ferries executives, even while our coastal routes are being "nickel and dimed" with net-negative consequences. Public opinion at this point seems to be swinging towards renationalisation of BC Ferries, and I for one would vote for that. Privatisation has been tried, tested, and (apparently) failed.
I am beginning to think there is something to the theory that we're seeing a "New Jersey Moment" in BC politics. In case you missed it:http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/bridgegate-scandal-new-jersey-governor-3101204
Allegations (which seem pretty well founded) are current that a NJ Governor deliberately engineered a traffic jam to punish opposition voters. Given the voting patterns and history of BC, is it unthinkable that political malice has something to do with the irrational singling-out of coastal ferry service for "budget cuts" when massive subsidies are BAU for all other transportation modes and regions?
I am increasingly in agreement with Mr Abram. The entire process is suspect. Neither of the choices being offered should be endorsed. If this ill-advised policy is pursued, it is against the region's opinion and will, and against the best interests of the province as a whole. It should be clearly seen as such; imho we should go on record opposing the entire process, not allowing BCF to pretend that we have "chosen" either of their options. Just my $0.02.