The Baynes Sound Connector leaves Denman Island en route to Buckley Bay Monday afternoon. Photo by Erin Haluschak

BC Ferries Advisory Committee members resign following cuts to Denman, Hornby ferry service

"It feels like they're downloading all those costs onto the community."

Four people, including Comox Valley Regional District Electoral Area A Director Daniel Arbour, have resigned from the Denman Island-Hornby Island Ferry Advisory Committee following cuts to ferry service announced late last week.

On June 5, Arbour, along with Hornby Island Fire Chief Doug Chinnery, Hornby Island Trustee Grant Scott and Denman Island resident George McCrae received notification from BC Ferries of cuts to ferry service for both the Hornby and Denman Island runs, respectively.

“Ironically on the exact same day (BC Ferries) announced the restoration of services pretty much across the fleet, we also learned they had made the decision (of the cuts) about 90 days ago,” explains Arbour on Denman Island Monday.

He adds 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.

Doug Chinnery announced his resignation from the BC Ferries Advisory Committee on Twitter.

According to BC Ferries, the ferry advisory committees are made up of local representatives to discuss day-to-day operations, planned improvements and broader policy issues such as fares and strategic planning. There are currently 13 advisory committees for the various communities in which BC Ferries provides service.

Arbour notes in 2014 – the last time the corporation did a series of cuts to service to Denman and Hornby – there had been extensive community consultation. While it did lead to some cuts, he concedes there was at the very least some input from the communities.

He says the cuts run in the middle of the day and on Friday nights, resulting in “zero savings.”

“We understand crews would still get paid so we do not understand where BC Ferries is coming from on this. They had a very hard time explaining why the cuts were necessary … they admitted the saving was really small, but they wanted to showcase [to the] government that they were trying to save on costs.”

He adds the organization is proposing to start the shortened schedule next week, continue with its usual summer schedule, July 1, and return the abbreviated schedule again in September.

Beginning mid-June, Arbour says the 11:45 a.m. sailing from Denman West will be cancelled, along with the 12:05 p.m. from Shingle Spit (Hornby) to Gravelly Bay on Denman. Additionally, during the shoulder season, there will no longer be return sailings on Friday from Denman to Buckley Bay at 9:40 p.m. and service will be cut between Denman and Hornby islands for the final return sailing at 10 p.m. from Hornby and 10:35 p.m. from Gravelly Bay.

For first responders and emergency personnel, losing a mid-day sailing means any call-out that happens just prior to a missed sailing results in a four-hour call, explains Chinnery.

“We as a community and as a committee, it took two years to put these sailings back in (when they were cut years ago), and to hear a year after they’ve been put back in they’re now going to axe them again is devastating, it’s so demoralizing.”

Chinnery says he’s unsure if the resignations from the board will get the attention of the organization, but he hopes BC Ferries executive will begin to pay attention to the trouble the cuts will make to the community.

In addition to issues for first responders and emergency services, he explains there will be a direct effect on capital projects, particularly on Hornby Island, such as the new school and arts centre.

“There’s a lot of construction going on in Hornby and that mid-day gap means that cement trucks are potentially waiting here (Denman side) to get over, tradespeople are not waiting. If you miss a ferry or you show up late and the ferry is full, now you’ve got a two-hour delay that someone on Hornby is going to end up paying for.”

He adds he feels as though BC Ferries is paying its crew to sit and not sail to make a point that the corporation wants to send everything back to its minimum contracted service.

“It feels like they’re downloading all those costs onto the community…We often hear that we’re here (as a committee) to be a consultation – bounce ideas off of them and to give them the community perspective – but it seems like none of that ever happens. It feels like we’re here to have them hand down decisions and it’s left up to us to somehow communicate that to the community.”

Denman Island resident Vali Majd is the administrator of the Denman Island “Full” Ferry Schedule Initiative Facebook page and said the sentiment from many residents is that cuts are “a completely absurd move given that the ferries are here, the staff is here and they claim it’s one of the cheaper ferries to run.”

He agrees with the decision of the four members of the advisory committee to step down and says it should be taken a step further.

“I think we all feel that the whole advisory committee should step down to send a clear message … (BC Ferries) just throws things down and hope the advisory committee will take the brunt of the issue, which they do, but a lot of people – including advisory members – are fed up with it.”

BC Ferries did not respond to a request for an interview by the Record‘s deadline.


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