Sunday April 20, 2014

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Ferry plans sink citizens


If, after reading our front page, you’re feeling sucker punched, rest assured — you’re not the only one.

In an upsetting move four days before a meeting scheduled for coastal communities to meet with MLA Jordan Sturdy, the province announced service cuts to BC Ferries. Along with the cuts came the news that seniors would no longer be riding for free Monday to Thursday.

What this means for the Sunshine Coast is a loss of the early Sunday ferry round trip during off-peak times — a net loss of 40 trips. So if, during the winter, you have a job requiring you to commute on Sundays, you’re now left scrambling to find a way to get to work on time. If you go to church in the city, take part in sports leagues off-Coast or just plain need to be in Vancouver early Sunday, you’re up the proverbial without a ferry.

We think most seniors recognize the dire financial straits of the ferry system, but to suddenly find themselves paying for a service that’s been free for many years will be a shock. Many seniors ride the ferry to help out struggling families in the city with childcare, some have medical appointments not eligible for ferry coverage, and others just want to have an outing that doesn’t break the bank. Coupled with the news that some fancy finagling with the pay structure of senior ferry employees will change little in that direction makes this plan even more disheartening.

But overall, what hurts the most in all of this news is the lack of respect shown the coastal citizens of B.C. We’re pretty sure these decisions weren’t made in the last few days, so waiting another four days and at least giving the impression that we had some say in the matter would have made for a lot better optics.

Now, like good little children who need to be placated, the magnanimous folks in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are going to allow us to tweak the reductions. This is an insult to local politicians who we believe want to find ways to save the taxpayers of B.C. some money, but wanted do it by compromise not through an arbitrary edict from senior politicians who should know better. It leaves perfectly reasonable people angry and embarrassed.

Word came this week too that the transportation knobs are floating the idea of installing slot machines on the ships. We’re wondering if they’re going to put them in the kids’ games area — that way the whole family could play at the same time. Maybe Granny and Gramps can win back some of the cash the government is clawing back — and if not, what’s the loss of a pension cheque or two?

All told, this government has done a miserable job of communicating with our coastal communities. It’s time to show up at the ‘tweaking’ talks and let them know we’re mad as hell and we’re really not going to take it anymore. Be at the meeting at the Cedars Inn on Saturday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to float your opinion.



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