VICTORIA — In meetings that will wrap up Wednesday evening, people in the coastal communities affected by the Liberal government’s ferry service cuts have exposed these cuts as reckless and short-sighted, say New Democrats.
“Unlike Transportation Minister Todd Stone, I attended many of these events, as did my fellow MLAs,” said New Democrat ferries critic Claire Trevena.
“We saw overwhelming frustration in these communities – frustration at a process that has not given them a say in decisions that will impact the future of their communities, and frustration that this Liberal government seems not to understand the long-term economic implications, or even the short-term human implications, of these cuts.”
In an editorial published last week, Stone noted that he sees these cuts, which will mean the end of 7,000 round-trip sailings per year, as an “opportunity” for private sector companies, unlike “some” who “may choose to see these reductions in service provided by B.C. Ferries as a negative.”
“People in ferry-dependent communities have shown up in droves to tell the government that cuts to their coastal highways aren’t ‘opportunities’ for anyone – not the women in Bella Coola who could lose their breast cancer screening program, not the tourism operators on the cancelled Discovery Coast Passage Route who could lose their livelihoods if the cuts go ahead, and not the kids on Denman Island who will have to give up extra-curricular activities they can no longer get to,” said Trevena.
“Basic business management would have ensured that these cuts were informed by economic impact studies; good planning would have made sure to look at the social impact on these communities. Without these measures, these cuts are irresponsible.”
While Minister Stone described these consultations as “engaging the communities on the upcoming service changes,” people in coastal communities have called these “changes” what they really are – cuts – and told the officials sent to their communities how they feel about a government that announces its plans to the media before consulting with the people affected.
“If Minister Stone had been there to listen to what people in coastal communities had to say, he would have learned that people who live in these places will not passively accept cuts that will impact the health and future of their communities, any more than people anywhere else would accept the closure of the only highway into their town,” said Trevena.
Trevena says in the decade since the Liberal government introduced its Coastal Ferry Act, the government has accepted and endorsed skyrocketing fares, dwindling ridership numbers, ballooning debt, and egregious executive bonuses at the corporation.
“What our ferry system needs is a real plan, not scattershot cuts developed without consideration of regional or economic impact,” said Trevena.