I wouldn’t call myself a protester. In fact, the only protest I’ve ever been involved in was one I knew little about. I was in college in Calgary and a friend of mine told me about a protest downtown. Truth be told, I didn’t really understand what the rally was about. I just thought it would be fun, and there was promise of beer at the pub after.
It was exciting to arrive on the scene with my friend Hilary, both of us journalism students who felt we were making a difference somehow. Hundreds of protestors circled McDougall Centre with signs held high, and there was a sense of solidarity that filled me up and made me feel I had a little power that day.
Any feeling of self-importance was quickly knocked out of me, however, when a TV news crew stopped Hilary and me to ask us some questions about the protest. I was all for it, assuming Hilary would answer and I’d just look cute on TV. Not the case. They asked me what the protest was all about, and I couldn’t hide my ignorance. So in complete humiliation, my first attempt at protesting ended with a vow to never do it again unless it really meant something to me.
For those of you wondering, Hilary informed me again (just this week) that the 1997 protest was against then premier Ralph Klein hosting a swanky dinner for the president of the People’s Republic of China, who at the time was Jiang Zemin. The goal of the dinner was to increase trade with China, but protestors wanted to focus on China’s human rights abuses. A good goal. Wish I had understood it more at age 20.
So now, at age 36, I’m finally ready to protest for something I know a lot about that hits close to home. It negatively impacts me, my family and friends — and government isn’t listening or helping any of us. Together we need to get the government to deal with rising ferry fares and reduced ferry service on our marine highway that is BC Ferries.
I’m going to take part in the BC Ferry Coalition’s “This is our Highway” protest next Saturday, Jan. 18, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
My biggest problem with the ferries is the cost to ride them. Some who don’t live in coastal communities have said “you knew about the ferries when you moved there,” and by that reasoning we should continue to pay for the service we’ve always paid for.
I agree — somewhat.
When I moved here in 1999, I knew there would be a cost to travel to the Lower Mainland. That cost in 1999 was somewhere around $25 by my recollection. I can’t count that as fact because I can’t find any rates back from 1999, but I did find rates from 2003, which show the cost for a vehicle and passenger to travel between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale was $37. In 2013 that cost was $63.60. That’s an increase of 72 per cent.
I never could have predicted the cost of my ONLY transportation off Coast would rise that dramatically in 10 years. And it’s not over. Come Jan. 17, we’ll have to cough up another 3.5 per cent.
Because it’s the only way off this rock, the ferries are our highway and any “inland” person who had to pay a toll on a highway that rose 72 percent in 10 years would be just as angry as all of us “islanders” are. Although we’re not an island, but no need to confuse folks.
The fact is the ferries are part of our road network and they have to be treated that way. I’m going to make sure my voice is heard next weekend, and perhaps all of us voters coming together will cause some change. It’s worth a try.