Quadra, Cortes islanders forced to swallow ferry cuts

The province threatened to cut the last run of the night on both sides of the Campbell River-Quadra route

Quadra Island is “dying a slow death by ferry” one resident told the crowd assembled Wednesday night at a meeting to discuss BC Ferries cuts.

About 65 people gathered at the Quadra Island Community Centre to listen to Ferry Advisory Chair Paul Ryan and Quadra Director Jim Abram discuss the newly-unveiled ferry schedule.

The province threatened to cut the last run of the night on both sides of the Campbell River-Quadra route, seven days a week, but Ryan told BC Ferries staff in March that residents were opposed to such a model.

The alternative?

To cut one early evening run leaving each side of the route.

The 6:15 p.m. sailing leaving Campbell River and the 5:50 p.m. sailing leaving Quadra Island are expected to be eliminated starting April 28.

Ryan said the decision wasn’t an easy one but his hand was forced during a meeting March 21 between the Ferry Advisory Committee, BC Ferries, and a handful of Quadra community members. He said originally it was a choice between cutting the late sailing or a BC Ferries alternative of cutting a mid-day sailing.

“What we came up with I think is probably as good as we can expect given the set of circumstances that we had to work under and I know it’s not going to please everyone and I know it’s going to be a real pain for a lot of people,” Ryan said. “We will be watching very closely. If it’s going to be a serious issue we can change some sailings around but we can’t add a run.”

Ryan said during the March 21 meeting, BC Ferries admitted runs would be cut – even if the mandated $185,000 in annual savings on the Campbell River/Quadra route could be found by other means.

“They told us that the province is mandated that they will cut nine runs a week, no matter how much money is involved,” Ryan said.

At that point, Abram stepped in.

“The way they actually put it is, ‘this is not about saving money this is about cutting runs,’ that was their exact comment,” said Abram, which prompted shocked gasps from the crowd gathered at the Quadra community centre.

Forced with making a decision on an altered ferry schedule, what Ryan and his group came up with is a schedule that sees sailings during the first half of the day run five minutes earlier. Sailings in the afternoon leave 10-15 minutes later, depending on the time.

The last run of the day will leave Campbell River at 9:55 p.m. on weekdays, instead of 10:30 p.m., and the last boat to leave Quadra will run at 9:25 p.m. The last sailing leaving Campbell River on Saturdays and Sundays will be at 10:55 p.m. and 10:25 p.m. leaving Quadra Island.

Amber Kinsey, president of Quadra Island Elementary’s PAC, said the new schedule will have a serious impact on the livelihood of islanders, particularly children.

“Our island is dying a slow death by ferry,” Kinsey said. “So many people here leave because they can’t do it anymore. I can see the trickle-down effect.”

Kinsey said the most glaring problem with the new schedule is changing the 3:30 p.m. run leaving Campbell River to 3:40 p.m., which is the sailing that brings the high school kids back to Quadra.

“It’s only a 10 minute difference but because we’re dealing with money, the school board will not pay for the 10 minute gap that that creates for our bus drivers. What that means now, is that the elementary school can’t let out at 2:30 because the buses can’t be there at 2:30 to meet them because normally the bus meets them at 2:30, they get dropped off everywhere and (the bus goes) straight to the ferry and picks up all the kids off the 3:30 ferry,” Kinsey said. “So now our administration has been told by the school board we can’t send the buses at 2:30, we’ll send them at 2:40.”

Which means the day will be expanded by 10 minutes for the elementary school students, Kinsey added. She also shared a friend’s experience with taking her son to Campbell River for karate. Normally she would catch the 5:50 p.m. ferry to Campbell River for a 6:15 p.m. karate class and take the 7:35 p.m. ferry home. With the schedule changes, she’ll be forced to catch the 5:15 p.m. ferry, leaving little time for dinner, and take the 7:55 p.m. ferry home – all for a one hour karate lesson.

“It’s little things like that, that in the grand scheme of things, in a parent’s world it makes something that was tough not sustainable,” Kinsey said. “So, ripple effects.”

Ryan said he would look at possibly adjusting the schedule to avoid the 10-minute gap for the schools but would first have to consult the Cortes Island ferry schedule to avoid conflicts.

“Let me work on that,” Ryan told Kinsey. “That’s ridiculous if the school board won’t cover 10 minutes.”

Before the meeting wrapped up, Abram encouraged as many islanders as possible to make the trip to Qualicum for a ferry demonstration Saturday afternoon outside of the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities convention being held there this weekend.

Abram said the goal of the rally is to garner support from all local governments to convince the province that BC Ferries should be brought back under the transportation ministry.

For more on the BC Ferries story, see next week’s Mirror.