B.C. Liberals will ignore coastal residents, go ahead with reckless cuts

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VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government has ignored the pleas of thousands of British Columbians and announced it will go ahead with reckless ferry service cuts that will hurt the province’s economy and seriously impact coastal communities.

“Today, the B.C. Liberals have proven that their so-called consultations with coastal communities were just window dressing on a done deal. People came out in good faith to tell their government how these cuts would affect their lives and their communities, but now we know that no one was listening,” said New Democrat ferries critic Claire Trevena. “Certainly the transportation minister wasn’t. Despite his promise to ‘look people in the eyes’ when these cuts were discussed, Todd Stone didn’t even bother to show up to a single one of these meetings.”

Trevena says the government has broken faith with people in coastal communities by implementing devastating cuts without first studying their economic and social impact.

“I have heard hundreds of painful stories about the effect that service cuts and fare hikes will have, through speaking to people up and down the coast, and through our website, BCFerriesSOS.ca. People have told us about businesses that are failing, and communities that are changing as young people are forced to leave. They have told us about the strain their families will face: grandparents who will miss seeing their grandchildren grow up, and parents who wonder how they will explain to their kids why they have to move from the only community they have ever lived in,” said Trevena.

“People in affected communities have done the work the government should have done and told the B.C. Liberals what impact these cuts will have. But instead of listening, the government is sticking to its agenda of reckless cuts, and failing to address affordability. So far this year, ferry users have seen a 3.5 per cent fuel surcharge, and they will face a 4 per cent fare hike April 1 – and that same day, seniors will be forced to pay more.”

Even B.C. Liberals have spoken out against the cuts. Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett publicly questioned the cut of the Discovery Coast route connecting Port Hardy, mid coast ports and Bella Bella. She told her local media that cutting the route in 2014 would be “devastating to the tourism industry and small businesses.”

“For more than a decade, the B.C. Liberals have stood by while fares, debt and executive compensation skyrocketed, and ridership fell,” said Trevena. “But instead of putting together a real plan to get B.C. Ferries back on track, they are forcing these ill-conceived cuts on coastal communities, and showing they have given up on our coastal highways.”