B.C. Liberals’ cuts to ferries threaten our health and livelihoods

B.C. Liberals’ cuts to ferries threaten our health and livelihoods

Jennifer Rice is the NDP MLA for the North Coast

With their rich resource wealth, northern communities are helping B.C. prosper. But the B.C. Liberal government isn’t returning the favour. Instead, their devastating cuts to ferry services show how little they know or care about real life on the North Coast.

We learned last week that B.C. Ferries will dramatically scale back three northern routes, and cut a fourth. Though there are cuts to ferry services all over the province, the deepest cuts announced to date are happening on these northern routes. Here, we will see cuts of up to 32% to the ferry system that serves as our coastal highway.

A decade of mismanagement at B.C. Ferries has meant fares have skyrocketed by as much as 85 per cent on so-called minor routes, ferry ridership has decreased, debt at the corporation has ballooned, and executive compensation has remained stratospheric. After a decade of watching these problems escalate and failing to make a plan to address them, now the Liberal government wants you to believe that their only option is to scale back services that people on the North Coast depend on.

Yet the week before they announced these cuts, the government also announced that they had scaled back bonus payments at B.C. Ferries. But they didn’t mention the fine print, which revealed that executives and managers will still receive their hefty bonuses, only they would now be rolled into their pay. The truth is, these callous cuts are a quick solution when this government has failed to make the real, long-term changes – like scaling back executive compensation – that will get B.C. Ferries back on track.

While the Liberal government may see the cuts to northern routes as simple accounting, what they don’t seem to see is the real impact of these cuts on our communities. They don’t see that people here will now have an even harder time accessing groceries they can afford, or making it to doctor’s appointments. Already, difficult ferry schedules mean that people here spend far too long travelling to and from appointments – further delays could mean they opt to not make the trip at all. This could lead to delays in getting treatment when they need it, or attempts to make do with food that is less nutritious but more readily available. Or, worse still, it will force people to leave our communities altogether.

The Liberal government also seems unaware of the effects these cuts will have on our livelihoods. While cancelling the Port Hardy – Mid Coast – Bella Coola ferry route may look good on a balance sheet, it will be devastating to tourism operators in Bella Coola Valley who depend on the circle route that that ferry completes. These operators have done everything right – they have distributed advertising, printed brochures, and built their businesses here in good faith. Now, they will face a significant loss of business because of a government that didn’t stop to consider the consequences of its cuts.

Leonard Ellis, president of the Bella Coola Valley Tourism Association, pointed out the announced cuts are “having very negative spinoffs on our client base, who obviously cannot book their trips for 2014.”

Ironically, the businesses that stand to lose the most from these cuts are the ones that have brought significant business to B.C. Ferries in the past. Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, for instance, was responsible for $20,000 of direct business for the corporation last year. General Manager Tim McGrady calls the decision to slash services to the North Coast “a real blow to our business, the community and region.”

I am proud to represent the people of the North Coast. We are small business owners, free enterprisers, and job creators. As the Liberal government has often admitted, we are the economic engine of the province. But we need basic, reliable transportation to keep our communities healthy and prosperous. But the Liberals have ignored our voices. Instead, they are only “consulting” with our communities after announcing their decisions.

It is wrong to remove resources from our coastal and rural communities and strip us of the infrastructure we depend on to thrive. The Liberal government may think North Coast communities are not worth fighting for, but people here know better. We don’t share their ghost-town vision for our communities. Please join me in telling the B.C. Liberal government that cuts to northern ferry routes will undermine our hard work and the future of our communities. Let’s tell them to go back to the drawing board and come up with a real solution to the problems at B.C. Ferries, not more quick, callous cuts.

Jennifer Rice is the NDP MLA for the North Coast Constituency. She represents coastal communities spread out over 66,000 sq. kilometres including Prince Rupert, Haida Gwaii and central coast communities, many of which are only accessible by ferry or seaplane.

Just Posted

BC Ferries confirms Northern Sea Wolf to sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

BC Parks Student Ranger Program accepting applications for 2019 season

12 crews of four student rangers will work in regions throughout the province including Bella Coola.

Over $650,00 given to rural communities thanks to Rural Dividends

Five communities, including Williams Lake, are receiving $10,000 for project grants

Pregnant Cariboo firefighter tries to save own house from blaze

Julia Flinton and Anthony Sellars both worked on the 2017 wildfires

Road report for Highway 20

Fog patches and slippery sections; Drive BC

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

Parents in this B.C. city can no longer opt kids out of class for personal beliefs

Change comes as part of ‘big overhaul’ of school district’s learning resources policy approved by board

BC Hydro scammers bilked customers out of nearly $45,000 in 2018

Nearly 2,000 people reported scams to the utility, as they continue to be more common

Good news: Peak flu season over in B.C.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control says that while peak season is over, rates remain high this time of year

“Potent storm” expected to bring strong winds to central, north coast

A deep low pressure system is set to reach Vancouver Island and the central coast by Friday evening.

B.C. university students dumpster dive to shed light on food waste

Eating only from dumpsters, the students hope to raise money for food banks in Northern Canada

B.C. woman posts to Facebook after she and nephew reported missing for days

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

Most Read