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Strathcona directors frustrated with ferry decision

Strathcona Regional District directors are expressing their frustration with the province over BC Ferries service cuts and have vowed to write the premier.

Directors were particularly upset over the B.C. government’s handling of a series of public consultations with communities that stand to be affected by the elimination of certain ferry sailings. Noba Anderson, director for Cortes Island (Area B), said it was disheartening to rally her constituents to voice their concern only to have it ignored.

“It is increasingly frustrating to engage my constituents and myself when it’s a waste of time,” Anderson said at the Feb. 12 board meeting. “Is there anything that’s different based on the consultation input?”

Jim Abram, director for Area C, which includes Quadra Island, said the province didn’t take anything that was said by Quadra Islanders at a public meeting, organized by the government, Dec. 9 on Quadra to heart.

“No, the consultation input had no impact whatsoever on what was announced, input was not taken,” Abram said.

The B.C. Liberals announced Feb. 5 that it will proceed with planned sailing cuts to save $18.9 million on the minor routes.

The plan is to cut the last sailing leaving both sides of the Campbell River-Quadra Island run each night which many Quadra Islanders say will affect their ability to participate in extracurriculars, attend movies, play sports, or eat out at restaurants in Campbell River because they may not be able to make it home before the last ferry sails.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the government is directing BC Ferries to meet with stakeholders in affected communities to select sailing cuts based on input received during the public sessions. He said that could mean that on some routes mid-day sailings could be eliminated instead of early morning or late evening runs. But Abram said that suggestion had already been tossed around prior to the community consultations and didn’t come out of the public input.

Brenda Leigh, director for Area D, also expressed her frustration with the government and suggested the regional district write to Premier Christy Clark expressing its disappointment that the public consultations did not result in any substantial consideration of the social and economic impacts the cuts will have on affected communities.

“Why should the public participate in these dog and pony shows when they don’t even pay any attention,” Leigh said.

The board, however, elected to hold off on Leigh’s suggestion until an economic study, commissioned by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) and Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities (AVICC), on the impact of service cuts, is complete and submitted to the province.

The regional board did, however, vote in favour of writing a letter to Premier Clark showing its support for a UBCM resolution that asks the government of B.C. to reject any “recommendations, and abandon any plans, to increase ferry fares and/or reduce core ferry service levels”. The motion also resolves that UBCM will continue to lobby the province to implement legislation that recognizes the coastal ferry services as essential extensions to the provincial public highway system.

Abram said regional districts across the province are passing the resolution and writing to Premier Clark to show their support for the motion.

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