I took part in the BC Ferry Coalition’s “This Is Our Highway” protest last Saturday with my 10-year-old daughter Kaitlyn by my side. The point of the protest was to pressure Premier Christy Clark to make BC Ferries part of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The move would mean all taxpayers would pay for ferry costs, just as we pay for new highways throughout B.C., and I suspect a much smaller
toll would be levied.
I for one would be fine with paying somewhere around $20 per trip for my car and $5 per adult, assuming kids and seniors were able to travel for free and all taxpayers were giving their bit to subsidize our “marine highway” that is BC Ferries.
That was the simplified solution I gave to my daughter Kaitlyn when she asked me, “What should they do?”
While just 10 years old, my daughter is passionate about fundraising and fighting for causes that need support, and she saw the protest as a great way to get involved.
We talked about it a lot before I agreed she could come. I wanted to make sure she really knew what the event was about and cared about what protesters were trying to accomplish.
It hit home for her when she realized the $100 cost of a family ferry trip to the mainland was the only reason we couldn’t see her auntie on her birthday earlier this month.
With that in mind, we got down to the serious work of making protest signs.
We spent a long time tossing around ideas before finally making our signs on Saturday morning that read “A Hostage of our ONLY highway option,” for me to hold and “High fares keep families apart,” for Kaitlyn.
Ideas that didn’t make the cut included, “BC Ferries, Pirates of Howe Sound,” “Rising fares will leave us stranded” and “BC Ferries, punishing customers since 1960.”
The signs we ended up with said what we wanted without being too rude, which is important when you’re trying to teach your 10-year-old how to protest peacefully.
We also penned letters to Christy Clark that Saturday morning. Mine talked about the 75-per-cent hike in fares in the last 10 years being unaffordable and unacceptable,
while Kaitlyn asked Ms. Clark to “please help me and other families to be able to see their family.”
Once on scene in Sechelt with letters and protest signs in hand we gathered to hear some speeches and songs before moving to the highway to wave our signs to the cars passing by, hoping to solicit some honks of solidarity.
Kaitlyn told me later that her favourite part was when people would honk or wave at her, and I admitted it was my favourite part too. It was obvious the 500 or so of us there in Sechelt were in favour of what we were doing, but to hear some support from passersby helped us feel like we were reaching others with our message and that they cared.
At the end of the protest my little girl asked if what we had done would make a difference, if Christy Clark would read her letter and if the government would help us. I told her that I didn’t know for sure, but that usually governments seem to care more when lots of people complain together. “We’re harder to ignore if there are lots of us,” I said.
On Saturday we had about 2,000 people protesting the higher fares and service cuts BC Ferries has been handing out for over a decade. I feel like all of us made enough noise for government to listen, but if not,
our provincial politicians can be sure we will get louder.