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General · 6th January 2014
Jim Abram
Here is a letter sent to Premier Clark by Linda Anton and Rick Horsley. Please read this and be inspired to send your own letters to the premier on the subject of BC Ferries.
Ref: Coastal Communities and BC Ferries – BC Ferry Coalition
We are writing in support of the BC Ferry Coalition to express our highest concern over the declining service levels and unreasonable costs to users of the marine transportation provided by BC Ferries Corporation to the various BC coastal communities.
In 2000 we purchased land in Gibsons which is served by the Horseshoe Bay / Langdale ferry route. In 2006 we decided to move from Calgary and began construction on our new home in Gibsons. In 2010 we were very fortunate to fulfill the dream to move to this beautiful part of Canada. During that time, we have seen with increasing dismay, turning now to alarm and anger, how the skyrocketing costs of ferry transportation are impacting lives and squeezing the lifeblood out of this community. Of course there is a financial impact on our household. When we made the decision to move to the Sunshine Coast we did not intend to be cut off from the remainder of the country due to the fees for travelling on a public transportation route. Citizens in other parts of this province and country enjoy such access as part of their tax base. If a toll is necessary on a part of any such routes, that toll is determined according to a reasonable standard defined by economic factors and what people and businesses can afford or would be reasonably willing to pay.
We decided to move to and live in Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast because it was then a vibrant community with people of all ages who supported themselves through various means, no differently than other communities in this province. It was a smaller community of people who valued the way of life in this coastal community and who felt and could realize an economic and life connection with the rest of the province. Ferry transportation was a large part of creating and maintaining this culture. Sadly we have watched people leave the coast for both economic reasons and to re-connect with family, friends and employers on the mainland because of the ever increasing cost and service limitations of the ferries. In the past decade, we know of too many young families who have left, schools that have closed and businesses ceasing to be viable. Real estate values are falling as is investment. There are now fewer tourists who come and as a result, facilities for tourists including restaurants, recreation and accommodations are either struggling or have closed permanently. With such reductions and closures naturally the owners or employees of such services or businesses have either left entirely or accepted a reduced income and quality of life if they stayed on the coast. Too many of necessity have simply left to pursue jobs or businesses elsewhere. Their lives will go on elsewhere and they will not return here but I know that most would have rather stayed. Certainly the financial meltdown of 2008 impacted everywhere but in this coastal community and others the impact was magnified by the ever increasing cost of using the ferry transportation network and recovery is not taking place as it should be. Quite the opposite. A responsible government would have seen to it that the cost of a public good did not further exacerbate an already serious economic blow.
Your Transportation Minister, Todd Stone, has stated that allowing service costs and fare increases by the BC Ferries Corporation has been the toughest decision he’s ever made. That indicates he hasn’t had to make very many large business decisions to this point. A good and pragmatic decision would have considered fully the needs and stated concerns of the citizens he represents. Those citizens also pay his living regardless of the political brand worn by the elected representative in the various coastal communities. His decision only took into account the desires and goals of the government-created and largely unaccountable monopoly that is the BC Ferries Corporation. It’s unbelievable that not one recommendation as a result of the past consultation processes was implemented. Rather, out of the blue and quite frankly it would appear to be out of petty meanness, the BC Ferries’ management decisions supported by your government, were favoured. These were to increase fares yet again to all users, including seniors and elders many of whom can ill afford it, along service cancellations in the name of corporate efficiencies to communities already struggling to maintain their economic footing and who have no reasonable transportation alternative.
Christy, for the users, backing down on BC Ferries is not an option. As a pragmatic politician you already know that the public reaction to certain issues does not go away when the matter is serious enough. This is a serious matter. The status quo for ours and other coastal communities is ever increasing marine transportation costs and declining service levels. We do not use the ferries only for fun or to just get away and neither do our families, friends and business associates who live elsewhere. It is an absolute transportation necessity. The current management plan is a race to the bottom that will result in the loss of many communities. This obviously is not an option and will not be allowed. You are there at the pleasure of the citizens and it is time for you to prioritize this very serious matter.
We urge you to immediately do the following:
• Suspend the contemplated fare increases, including the proposed seniors fare increase, and all service cancellations until such time as a solution that is acceptable to all those impacted is determined. The time of such suspension can be used to determine the means to dismantle the failed privatization experiment of BC Ferries undertaken in 2003. It created the worst possible business model – a largely unregulated, expensive and bloated, arrogant and unaccountable monopoly.
• Return the ferry transportation network to the greater BC Highways system and adequately fund it as part of BC highways. The BC Ferry Coalition has offered a viable model for accomplishing this action.
• Roll back all passenger and vehicle fares. These actions are urgently needed in order that the citizens and businesses of all coastal communities can be on a par with other citizens of this province. Nowhere else are people charged user fees including the many inland ferry routes, to drive on the roads and highways, linking their communities to other places. We acknowledge that in some cases tolls apply, however, these tend to be project specific to compensate for development or maintenance costs.
The provincial government and the BC Ferries Corporation have finally pushed the people of coastal regions to the tipping point. We are solidified in our opposition to this untenable situation. You are an intelligent person who realizes that this is much more than a local coastal issue. It impacts the greater economy of this tremendous province and speaks to your vision and competence as an elected government. I repeat, this issue will not go away and that you need to pay attention, listen and take immediate corrective action.
Thank you for your consideration.
Yours truly,
Linda Anton, Rick Horsley


Copies:
• Adrian Dix, Opposition Leader, 5022 Joyce Street Vancouver, BC V5R 4G6 (Adrian.dix.mlaleg.bc.ca)
• Nicolas Simons, MLA Powell River-Sunshine Coast, 109 – 4675 Marine Avenue, Powell River, BC V8A 2L2 (nicholas.simons.mlaleg.bc.ca)
• BC Ferry Coalition (mailbcferrycoalition.com)
• Editor, Coast Reporter (editorcoastreporter.net)
Keep it Brief
Comment by annieofthenorth on 7th January 2014
This letter is very good, but it is way too long. Most people will read between 200-300 words in a letter to the editor, or as short article. We will loose a great deal of the important audience if the letters are too long. So let's make them count--brevity is our friend.