Opinion

BC Ferries made for a wet but interesting afternoon

Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror. - Campbell River Mirror
Alistair Taylor is Editor of the Campbell River Mirror.
— image credit: Campbell River Mirror

There I was just after noon Saturday standing on a picnic table, buffeted by wind and rain, waiting for the dang ferry to go so I can get a good video shot of it pulling away.

It would have been a nice end clip for my video of the protest a group of Quadra Islanders had just staged in the ferry marshalling area on the Campbell River side.

I kept waiting on the table, camera in hand until I noticed RCMP officers arriving and walking onto the ferry. Aha! Now this was interesting. I got down from my perch and joined the other media at the ferry ramp. Not long after that an announcement came over the Queen of Powell River’s public address system saying the sailing had been cancelled due to weather. Nobody was fooled for a second.

It was another act in a piece of political theatre. It was obvious BC Ferries wanted to force the protestors to pay the return fare to Quathiaski Cove on Quadra. Why? Out of spite? To make an example? Insurance?

What had been a nice, tidy but pretty standard protest had now become something much more interesting and controversial. The protest on Saturday could have been over and done with and the news reports would have been a basic little clip about another ferry protest. Even the TV guys had admitted they had planned just quick trip up to Campbell River, shoot a little video and then head back to Nanaimo right away.

Instead, they ended up spending half a day there with a more dramatic story than they had intended. The headline on our website www.campbellrivermirror.com became a breaking news item – “Protestors and RCMP in peaceful standoff on Quadra Island ferry” – instead of a Wednesday print article a few days later.

So, what of this whole ferry debate? Our website has received some significant amount of debate, mostly supporting the protestors’ point of view. Should we be sympathetic to people who choose to live on these little islands, as one commentator said? Well, one point is that a lot of these little islands were settled long before parts of the mainland have been – particularly up north where highways have been punched through the wilderness to reach them. Quadra Island was settled long before Campbell River. Victoria is as old or older than anywhere on the Lower Mainland. So, there’s some kind of grandfathering exemption there.

And how much does it cost to build and maintain a ferry compared to a highway in the Okanagan? It’s a relevant point. Those who are implying that islanders made the choice to live in an inaccessible place are ignoring historical settlement patterns in the province. Then there’s the tourist value of Vancouver Island. Which generates more tourism income, the Island or northeastern B.C.? The population of the northern B.C. health authority is 252,764. The Vancouver Island Health Authority is 764,826. Are we getting special treatment? There are more people living here. And our population is equal to the Interior health authority.

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