PenderBlog From The Pender Islands Of Canada

May 29, 2011

Ferry fare increases contested

Filed under: Governance and Legal — Jocko @ 2:27 pm

An Open Letter From the Pender Island Chamber of Commerce:

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Dear Hon. Christy Clark, Premier of the Province of British Columbia,
premier@gov.bc.ca

Our community of Pender Islands is home to about 2,500 permanent residents, but our part time population has increased tremendously and there are about 4,500 people here most weekends and all summer long. We are on the Southern Gulf Islands ferry system or Route 5 (Swartz Bay to Southern Gulf Islands) and Route 9 (Tsawwassen to Southern Gulf Islands). Tourism runs our island economy. Our businesses depend on tourism to produce sufficient income to justify their existence, which in turn provide a major source of employment to local residents and summer students. Over the past two years many of our local businesses have suffered a 40% decline in revenue.  We believe the ongoing increases in ferry fares and insufficient sailings have played a significant role in this alarming decline. Sailings are frequently overloaded on weekends and on many days in the summer, leaving local residents and tourists behind. This is a crushing blow to our island businesses.

Whether living on an island, or on the mainland of British Columbia, can citizens not expect fair and equal support from their government to provide basic services? A portion of provincial taxes from island tax payers goes towards building and maintaining the highways in our province, but islanders, when voicing a complaint, frequently hear the phrase “You chose to live on an island, so get over it!”  British Columbia is branded as “beautiful”, and its coastal islands, including Vancouver Island, play a major role in conveying this message to the world.  Citizens living on the mainland rightfully expect snow removal, new roads, maintenance of highways, and reasonable public transportation. All taxpayers in our province fund these programs, and island taxpayers expect that the same would apply to their only mode of transportation to and from their places of work and homes.

The general consensus among most islanders is that fair and equal treatment by our government is not being offered to support a basic service in the form of affordable transportation being provided by the BC Ferry Corporation. Why are our coastal waters not included as an extension of the BC highway system, and supported on an equal per kilometer basis? We also question why fourteen ferries in the BC interior are offering their services free to travellers? Why do you subsidize those routes 100% and ours is not even getting the 50% that you realized was required when you wrote the first contract?

A large amount of land on the Gulf Islands has been acquired by Parks Canada. Parks Canada – Gulf Islands National Park Reserve is actively inviting travellers to visit their parks on Pender Islands, part of their tourism attraction strategy, in their publications at Tourist Information Centres across Canada. Many potential visitors have called our local inns and bed and breakfasts to book accommodation, only to call back to cancel when they learn the high cost of the ferry fares, and the insufficient sailings from Tsawwassen.

•  In short we request that you review your subsidy to the BC Ferry Corporation, and provide at least the 50% that you approved for the Gulf Islands routes originally in your contract.

•  We are also greatly opposed to the elimination or Route 9 which BC Ferry Corporation has stated will be forthcoming if subsidies are not increased, as this move would be a major blow to the economy of Pender Islands.

•  We ask that the provincial government provide the capital funding to replace the present aging Route 9 ferry (Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands) as was done for the northern route, and reconsider the increase in fares which are threatening to eliminate travel to the Southern Gulf Islands.

As our new Premier, we are pleased to hear that you have asked us to be a partner in change and that we can count on you to listen. We anxiously await your reply.

Sincerely,
BC Ferries Committee Pender Island Chamber of Commerce.
cc Hon. Blair Lekstrom, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

Pender Island Chamber of Commerce
Local businesses working together to support and promote each other and Pender Island
Box 123, Pender Island, British Columbia    V0N 2M0 (250) 629-3988 http://www.penderislandchamber.com    travel@penderislandchamber.com

To print out and sign a letter of petition, go to letter-to-bc-ferry-commission-re-price-caps.pdf (.pdf file)

Islands Trust Council Chair Sheila Malcolmson wrote to Minister Blair Lekstrom seeking lower ferry rates and changes to the Coastal Ferry Act.

To view the letter click here:  blairlekstrom.pdf

BC FERRIES’ BOARD DEFENDS CEO PACKAGE
July 12, 2011 – BC Ferries’ Board Chair Donald Hayes issued a statement today on behalf of the Board of Directors in response to recent media stories concerning the compensation and pension arrangements of company President and CEO David Hahn.  View the press release here:  salarydefence.pdf

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