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Protestors rallying Tuesday in Victoria to defend 'marine highway'

Jim Abram, chair of the Strathcona Regional District, is calling on B.C. residents to help send a message to the provincial government about defending the marine highway. - Photo submitted
Jim Abram, chair of the Strathcona Regional District, is calling on B.C. residents to help send a message to the provincial government about defending the marine highway.
— image credit: Photo submitted

Calling it a "provincewide issue," the chair of the Strathcona Regional District is calling on not only Island residents, but those across the province to help send a message to the B.C. government about defending the marine highway.

Jim Abram, chair of the SRD and a Quadra Island resident, is helping to co-ordinate a rally today (March 11) on the lawn of the legislative building in Victoria to deliver a message to the premier and transportation minister to stop cuts to BC Ferries, lower the fares and put the ferries back into the highway system.

"People don't realize this affects the provincial economy," Abram explained Thursday in Courtenay. He said not only people, but various sectors including health care, education and aquaculture depend on the ferry system.

"The provincial government needs to return the marine highway as part of its transportation system. They refuse to fund it as infrastructure; it's not some little organization that needs a subsidy, this is public transportation."

Tuesday, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., Abram hopes thousands of people will voice their opinions about the ferry service. Four buses from Quadra alone will bring people down to the capital, he added.

"There will be hundreds of cars carpooling from other Islands, including Hornby and Denman islands."

Abram said he hopes the rally will bring attention to the way the ferries used to be run prior to the Coastal Ferry Act.

"In 2003, (the act) came in, and we want to get rid of it. Get rid of the BC Ferry Authority, get rid of the BC Ferry Board and BC Ferry the Commission Office. The Ministry of Transportation used to run it, and they ran if effectively," he noted.

"Now it's so bloated with managers ... they've done everything they could to make it into a cruise line rather than a transportation system."

In a press release Sunday, Abram said protest organizers have received support by resolution from 26 B.C. local governments that agree this is a provincial concern, not just a coastal issue.

The list, which also includes local governments in the Interior, includes: Union of BC Municipalities – representing 184 local governments in B.C., Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities, Central Coast Regional District, City of Powell River, City of Prince Rupert, City of Terrace, District of Central Saanich, District of Sechelt, District of Ucluelet, Islands Trust Council, Kitimat-Stikine Regional District, Powell River Regional District, Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District, Strathcona Regional District, Sunshine Coast Regional District and Village of Queen Charlotte.

Along with Island residents, Abram said representatives of municipalities from the Lower Mainland, First Nations, business groups and more will be at the rally.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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