Bella Coola Valley residents are urged to make their voices heard at a Saturday March 15 rally to “Save the Discovery Coast Ferry”. Bella Coola Valley Tourism (BCVT) is planning a noon-hour event that day – coinciding with rallies in communities from Haida Gwai to the Sunshine Coast.
Part of the strategy of the newly formed Coastal Mainland Alliance opposing massive changes to BC Ferries operations, the March 15 simultaneous rally follows on the heels of a massive demonstration planned for the legislature lawn in Victoria on the previous Tuesday, March 11. That day, people from ferry-dependent communities on the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island, the Northern Gulf Islands, and the Lower Mainland are busing from as far away as Powell River and Northern Vancouver Island to make their opposition heard.
Three main thrusts of the Legislature rally are to tell the government to stop the service cuts and fare increases, conduct open consultation with ferry-impacted communities, and bring BC Ferries back under government control to ensure it operates as a public transportation service.
The Alliance has also pledged to give front-and-centre attention to the government plan to kill the Discovery Coast Circle Tour by replacing the Queen of Chilliwack with the Nimpkish – a decision predicted to wipe out the tourist traffic to the Bella Coola Valley and Chilcotin. Alliance organizers see the cut that affects Bella Coola as “the most egregious” cut of all being planned by the government. (This route is the only one on the entire coast to be eliminated.)
The BCVT-sponsored rally in Bella Coola is intended to bring the community together to show the rest of the province and the government how opposed Valley residents are to the cancellation of Route 40 – the summer ferry service between Bella Coola and Port Hardy, the marine link in the Circle Route that makes it possible for tourists to travel through the Valley.
All Valley residents are urged to step up and help with the rally planning and to get to the wharf on March 15 to show solidarity in the Bella Coola-Chilcotin community and with the other coastal communities that are taking the Discovery Coast cause to Victoria.
Locally, the abolition of Route 40 has sparked a chain of opposition from Vancouver Island, the Central Coast, and the Cariboo. Headed by Petrus Rykes of the West Chilcotin Tourism Association and BCVT President Leonard Ellis, the “Save the Discovery Coast Ferry” campaign recently launched www.savethediscoverycoastferry.ca as a way to inform BC residents of the economic value of retaining Route 40. Opponents of the cuts are urged to send a letter through the website and to provide comments on website postings.
“By cancelling this route, BC Ferries hopes to save $725,000 per year. But the route helps bring in $2.5 million each year in tourism revenue just in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast,” said Ellis, the campaign’s vice-chair. “It may be an easy choice for BC Ferries to make, but it’s the wrong choice for British Columbia.”
Updates on rally plans will be posted on the campaign website and on Facebook.