A rally on the Legislature lawn Tuesday attempted to send a message to the provincial government that island residents oppose ferry cuts.

Show us the impacts on ferry cuts, say up-Island chambers of commerce

'We want to be able to work with the existing government – what are the impacts and what are the options?'

If BC Ferries is saving money by cutting back on sailings, the Upper Island chambers of commerce want to know what the impacts will be on communities.

“I don’t think it makes sense to do these things without economic impact studies,” said Michael Boulet, chair of the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce.

Boulet was in Victoria Tuesday morning for the ferry protest in front of the Legislature and was speaking on behalf of the Parksville, Qualicum, Comox Valley, Campbell River and Port Hardy chambers of commerce.

“We more or less agreed on the message…that more studies need to be done,” Boulet said Wednesday. “We want to be able to work with the existing government – what are the impacts and what are the options?”

Jim Abram, the long-time regional district director for Quadra Island, was also at the protest and wasn’t as diplomatic.

“They know they’re screwing up the provincial economy!” he told the Mirror. “They didn’t do an economic impact study, no business assessment, nothing!”

Abram said ridership is declining and will likely continue if BC Ferries continues to cut sailings while boosting rates. He called the latest cost-saving measures as band-aid solutions and predicted that next year’s cost-cuts will affect the main routes out of Nanaimo and Victoria.

“What about another $20 million next year? Where will they get that? They’ll take it from other routes or eliminate more routes,” he said.

Abram said the cutbacks will affect businesses on the small islands that contribute a lot to the provincial economy.

When they suffer, he added, that means less money for social programs, health care and education.

“It’s a continuing downward spiral,” he said. “Infrastructure funding is what (BC Ferries) requires. If it was just made part of the highways system we would require just one piece – just one little piece – of that infrastructure funding and then we wouldn’t be having this conversation every year.”