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Denman Islander hopes ferry neighbours will be more neighbourly

December 18, 2012 · 12:12 PM
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Dear editor,

While Courtenay resident Bruce Ellis is free to disregard his neighbour's interests on Denman and Hornby Islands, he is not free to abuse the truth about the level of subsidy received for our ferry service.

And don't take my word for it. If you look at the government's coastalferriesengagement.ca site, you will see that total subsidy to the Buckley Bay to Denman West route, from the provincial and federal governments, is $4.2 million annually (not the $15 million annually that Mr. Ellis claims).

This in no way translates to $400/car and driver Mr. Ellis claims as being the actual cost of transporting residents to our homes, as the rate of subsidy plus the more than $20/trip fare totals under $40.

If Mr. Ellis had done his homework, he would discover that Denman and Hornby residents do not determine the level of service we receive at all.

When the Crown corporation BC Ferries was "privatized" a decade ago, the BC Liberals forced the new BC Ferries Services Inc. to move toward a "user pay" model, and we have had the highest levels of fare increases as any route in the entire fleet, while they insisted the new operation provide the same level of service.

Now BC Ferries Services Inc. has decided that we will get a cable ferry and claim this will save $19 million a year, while raising our fares an additional 12.5 per cent over the next three years. And they have identified our route as one to find further savings in service reductions.

None of these savings will be passed onto local residents, as they are to be shared "fleet wide." As a resident, I can tell you that only late night weekday sailings are underutilized. We mostly have to wait for extra sailings as the ferries are full at the scheduled departures during the day.

Denman and Hornby residents accept a certain amount of inconvenience as Island residents.

In the past decade, our school population has gone from 100 students to 30. Young families are having affordability issues that are forcing them to leave.

While the government has prioritized "families first" and "jobs, jobs, jobs," the effects of their policies have been to put the needs of our families last, and to cut valuable local jobs on our ferries.

This decade of offloading ferry costs onto local residents has a grave and negative impact to the sustainability of our communities. Our small Islands contribute a disproportionate amount of provincial taxes in regard to our population already, and we need the ferry service to access these shared Comox Valley amenities located on Vancouver Island.

I can only hope that our Comox Valley neighbours would share our concerns as well.

Keith Porteous,

Denman Island

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