B.C. Liberals refuse to help First Nation stranded by soaring ferry fares

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VICTORIA – The Penelakut First Nation is being held hostage by soaring ferry fares and being ignored by the B.C. Liberal government, say the New Democrats.

“The B.C. Liberals say they’re making ‘tough decisions’ by cancelling ferry sailings and allowing fares to continue to skyrocket. But it’s ferry users who are making the real tough decisions. Today in the legislature I told the story of the Penelakut First Nation. They live on a small island off Chemainus served by B.C. Ferries, and are held hostage by fares they can’t afford,” said Doug Routley, New Democrat MLA for Nanaimo–North Cowichan.

“After being forced by settlers to move to an island reservation, they are now being forced to pay the price for this government’s failure to manage our ferry system.”

Many Penelakut have close relatives in nearby Vancouver Island First Nations communities, but punitive ferry fares mean that children can’t take part in community sports leagues, families can’t attend cultural events such as weddings, funerals and other ceremonies, and elders are cut off from their extended families.

“Today I asked the ferries minister to take immediate steps to help the Penelakut, who make ‘tough decisions’ that affect their quality of life every day. But he offered them nothing but excuses,” said Routley.

“The Penelakut need more than words from this government. They need action that will give them back the reliable and accessible transportation they deserve.”

Since the B.C. Liberals brought in the Coastal Ferry Act in 2003, they have failed to curb rising fares, declining ridership, growing debt, and exorbitant executive salaries at B.C. Ferries.

After telling media that his approach to these cuts would be to ‘look people in the eyes and talk to them about why it’s necessary,’ Transportation Minister Todd Stone failed to visit a single community during the government’s so-called consultation process in the fall.

“Today, several hundred people, including the chief of the Penelakut nation, are in Victoria to share their serious concerns about B.C. Ferries with the minister. He is refusing to even meet with them. The truth is, this minister is all about easy decisions, not tough ones.”