BC Ferries routes that were slated to be cut from schedules – including those for Denman and Hornby islands – are being reinstated, thanks to an injection of cash to the corporation on behalf of the provincial government.
On June 18, B.C’s Transportation Minister Claire Trevena announced the province will spend about $180,000 to temporarily avoid the cuts until September.
Earlier in June four people, including Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Area A Director Daniel Arbour, resigned from the Denman Island-Hornby Island Ferry Advisory Committee following the cuts to service.
Arbour said the decision was done without consultation of the ferry advisory committee, so he and a number of other members decided it was appropriate to resign.
The cuts were set to begin mid-June, with a pause of the summer season, and return to the abbreviated schedule again in September.
Arbour says while it’s good to hear both the province and BC Ferries are taking a step back from the initial announcement, he emphasizes the Coastal Ferry Act still needs to be fixed.
“BC Ferries appears to be not acting in the public’s best interest,” he notes and adds the provincial money will act as a band-aid solution until the fall, and the core of the problem is not being addressed.
He calls the initial announcement of the cuts “premature and erratic … and are crushing blows to coastal communities” and is calling on Trevena to take a meeting with coastal communities to discuss ferry service.
“Everyone is concerned from Haida Gwaii to Quadra Island … we hope the province will engage with us with a proper discussion around the long-term future of the ferries.”
Arbour notes the way in which the Coastal Ferry Act is constructed is to allow BC Ferries significant cutbacks in times of recessions, which he adds is essentially closing part of the highway system.
“When the economy is bad, how does that help the recovery?”
Due to a reduction in service from COVID-19 and sailing at 50 per cent capacity on all routes, BC Ferries has been losing up to $1.5 million per day during the pandemic.
Other minor routes that were targeted to have sailing reductions include Salt Spring Island, Texada, Powell River and Quadra Island.
Despite the temporary funds, Arbour has no intention of resuming his position on the advisory committee and says he would rather use his position as an elected official to help his community.