Transportation Minister Todd Stone says the province is moving ahead with BC Ferries service reductions to save 18.9 million dollars.
And they’re still going ahead this spring.
Stone says BC Ferries will meet with designated community representatives to refine the schedules on the affected minor and northern routes, taking into account the community input received during engagement. For example, on some routes, there are opportunities to eliminate mid-day sailings in favour of retaining early morning or late evening sailings. The final schedules will be made public by the end of March.
BC Ferries will also implement further changes to the major routes including Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay by April 2016 with an eye to saving 4.9 million dollars.
“We are making these tough decisions today in the interest of the taxpayers of B.C., and for the future of the coastal ferry service and the communities they serve… Better alignment of service levels to the demand, while protecting basic levels of service, is necessary to ensure a coastal ferry service that’s affordable, efficient and sustainable for future generations,” says Stone.
The plan to cut sailings has met with fierce opposition in many ferry dependent communities. Just yesterday the group BC Ferry Coalition delivered hundreds of letters to the premier’s Vancouver office. They’re vowing to hold a major protest at the Legislature.
Chair of the Islands Trust and Gabriola Island trustee Sheila Malcolmson says the news that the government isn’t backing away from the service cuts is disappointing. She says the engagement sessions were a waste of time and money, considering what people said didn’t seem to make a difference.
She says according to the Coastal Ferry Service Act, the public is supposed to have enough time before schedule changes are made to plan appropriately. She says the cuts were announced in November, leaving very little time for people to adjust or make alternate arrangements to get to work or school. She cuts the cuts aren’t community-minded, family-minded or economy-minded.
The NDP MLA for Powell River Sunshine Coast, Nicholas Simons, says Stone may have heard what was said during the various engagement sessions, but he didn’t listen.