Could the years of lobbying and citizen engagement trying to get better fares and better service on our major transportation link finally be paying off?
It appears so after last week’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver.
The board chairs from 13 area regional districts, including Sunshine Coast Regional District board chair Garry Nohr, had a couple of breakthrough meetings with the provincial government.
A 20-minute session with Premier Christy Clark saw an open and honest dialogue, according to Nohr, where the premier agreed that BC Ferries is past the tipping point on increasing fares. While Clark didn’t commit to anything, it certainly appears she is getting the message that rising costs to ferry-dependent communities such as the Sunshine Coast are simply unacceptable.
Another significant breakthrough was the appointment of West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy, who will confer with the regional district chairs prior to the next round of consultations on possible ferry service cuts, scheduled for November and December. Sturdy is the parliamentary secretary to Transportation Minister Todd Stone and knows a lot about transportation issues. He is Pemberton’s mayor, and even though he is a rookie MLA, he has a lot of experience dealing with transportation issues after years of living in the Sea to Sky corridor and lobbying for improvements to the Sea to Sky Highway. And yes, lobbying for highway improvements is not the same thing as lobbying for ferry improvements, but the ferry system is our highway, so we’re encouraged to see some knowledgeable people working to address the issues.
We’re also encouraged by a survey, released Tuesday by the Canadian Ferry Operators Association, which highlighted the socio-economic importance of the ferry sector in Canada.
“Ferries form an essential part of Canada’s transportation infrastructure, and ferry operators provide vital economic connections for Canadians across the country,” said a spokesperson from the Association, adding that “it’s important to remember that infrastructure is more than just highways and bridges; investments in our maritime transportation systems are needed at the same time.”
We couldn’t agree more. This is something that our politicians and residents have been saying for years. The ferry system is an extension of our highway. We can’t move goods or services without it. It is a transportation service that is a vital link to our survival. The report also says that the federal government has to continue to provide a safe and environmentally friendly means of transportation by investing in cleaner technologies and more efficient vessels. It’s like music to our ears.
We applaud the regional district chairs and the Ferry Advisory Committees who have gotten us this far. Here’s hoping our politicians continue to listen.