From Saturna to Haida Gwaii, and from Victoria to the Chilcotin, a group composed of First Nations council representatives, elected officials, grassroots organizers and concerned business owners stand united in fighting the proposed April 1 BC Ferries cuts after a lengthy video-conference call last week.
“We are an alliance of B.C. residents and businesses who are fighting for the 20 per cent of British Columbians that rely on the ferries to connect them with their homes and their livelihoods,” said conference-call host Kathy Ramsey from Gabriola Island. “Our communities generate 36 per cent of the province’s revenue. The people of B.C. cannot afford not to listen to us.”
The group is calling on the provincial government to:
• Immediately rescind the cuts that are already devastating many of their communities and economies, and guaranteed to sink tourism and business opportunities by summer 2014.
• Engage in meaningful dialogue with the most directly affected stakeholders in the BC Ferries service: the residents of ferry-dependent communities.
• Insist that BC Ferries and the province re-commit to a long-term sustainable plan for the ferry fleet, and reaffirm that BC Ferries is an essential transportation service.
• Instruct the ferry commissioner to actively oversee BC Ferries as an entity managed for the public good in order to facilitate social and economic growth.
• Ensure that fiscal fairness is practised for the benefit of all communities: BC Ferries needs to be just as reliable, affordable and accessible as other provincial transportation infrastructure.
Failure to address these conditions will result in significant economic and social losses that will affect all British Columbians, according to a press release from the alliance.
Participants affirmed that the 2003 Coastal Ferry Act, which promised communities economic growth, improved service and a sustainable ferry system, had invited people to come settle in their communities, based on those promises.
The formation of the alliance comes just in time for Saturday’s planned Coast-wide protest of BC Ferries service cuts.