Thursday April 24, 2014

question of the week

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Working to keep the lights on



Keith Maxwell’s letter of Jan. 3 is inaccurate. The newly formed BC Ferry Coalition are not the “usual suspects”, unless one considers nine regional district chairs, 49 cities, municipalities, villages and towns, 38 chambers of commerce, Coastal First Nations and the 737,089 citizens in ferry communities as “suspects.” This is not manufactured outrage. This is an honest effort to find an affordable, dependable and sustainable ferry system: our marine highways.

Suggesting those needing the 6:25 a.m. Sunday sailing change their schedules to adapt misunderstands today’s employment realities. Despite low usage, the early sailing is critical for those who take it. Today’s 24-7 services and businesses require shift schedules that increasingly make an eight-hour-per-day, Monday-to Friday worklife less the norm.

It is this “let them eat cake” attitude that has allowed the ferry situation to deteriorate to the point where the average person cannot afford to reside in our coastal communities.

Maxwell is correct that Route 3 is subsidized about $5 million per year. But he’s wrong to assert that “no such subsidy is provided to a community accessible by road.”

How is the $2-billion cost of the Sea-to-Sky Highway upgrade not a subsidy to the communities of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton? Those residents are not asked to pay for their highway use. In reality, all highway users are subsidized.

Suggesting the discount for “well-off elderly” ferry users should be cancelled belies the reality that while some seniors are better off, many more live on fixed modest to low incomes. Seniors pay taxes, spend money and require services, which generates jobs. Attracting seniors to our Coast is good business. Actions that discourage seniors from moving here are counterproductive, unless one advocates last one to leave turn out the lights.

Jim Cleghorn, Sechelt



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