Quadra Island Director Jim Abram says it’s obvious BC Ferries has already made up its mind on eliminating certain sailings before the government has had a chance to fully process the public’s input from community engagement sessions.
Abram, who sits on a coastal community board made up of regional district chairs, said he was on the ferry earlier this week going across to Campbell River for a meeting when his suspicions were confirmed by a deckhand.
“I had a crew member come talk to me and he told me how the crew have been given their 2014 schedule of hours and their hours have been reduced by the equivalent of our proposed sailing cuts,” Abram said. “So that information would have been generated by their human resources department six months ago. So tell me this isn’t jumping the gun on the process.
“This is a classic ‘we have decided what’s best for you, we’re going to tell you how we’re going to make it work.’”
What’s being proposed by BC Ferries is to cut sailings on the minor routes that it has deemed to have low ridership. For the Quadra Island-Campbell River run that means eliminating the 10 p.m. sailing from Quadra Island and the 10:30 p.m. sailing leaving Campbell River every day. Ferries also proposes to cut the 11 p.m. sailing off of Quadra Island and the 11:30 p.m. leaving Campbell River on Fridays and Saturdays.
Ferries, along with the provincial government which is demanding the ferry corporation come up with $18.9 million in savings, hosted public meetings over the last two months in communities which stand to be affected by the cuts. A meeting was hosted on Quadra Island, which drew more than 500 people – all of whom criticized the decision to reduce ferry service.
Some who spoke were skeptical their opinions would make a difference but a panel from BC Ferries assured the public their feedback would be taken back to the government for consideration.
Abram, however, doubts that was ever the case – particularly after he received a certain e-mail from Darin Guenette, manager of public affairs with BC Ferries, that was sent to Ferry Advisory Committees. Guenette’s e-mail outlines how BC Ferries plans to meet with the various committees, which exist for each ferry route in the province, to discuss the cuts. The e-mail was sent on Dec. 11 at 4:38 p.m., which was before the last community engagement meeting was to be held, at 5 p.m. on Thetis Island that same day.
“I wanted to send a quick note about where BCF (BC Ferries) is at (with) strategy/planning for how to meet with FACs (Ferry Advisory Committees) and discussion options for reworking those schedules that are seeing reductions from MOTI (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure),” Guenette said. “We have been looking at the reductions and trying to determine ‘new timings for schedules’ given the known constraints we are working with.”
Abram said the e-mail makes it sound like BC Ferries was planning to move forward with sailing cuts all along, no matter what was said during the public engagement process.
“The timing is absurd,” Abram said. “They haven’t even finished the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work on this process yet and they’re setting up meetings to talk with communities as to how they will deal with the changes. We don’t even know if there will be changes and as far as we’re concerned, there won’t be.”
Abram said the whole problem could be solved if the government would relent and put the ferry system back under the ministry of highways.
“It’s been 10 years of a failed experiment,” Abram said.