The release of the BC Ferries Consultation and Engagement Summary Report completes a monumental exercise involving more than 2,000 people in 30 coastal communities.
The process included opinion surveys, town halls, webinars and discussions with government officials and the broader general public from Queen Charlotte City to Victoria.
The result: an admirable public relations exercise in every way — too bad it’s unlikely to make any splash ahead of the May 14 election.
In 2009, voters in only five of the province’s 17 ridings that contain so-called ferry dependent communities elected a BC Liberal MLA.
From the NDP’s perspective, success in May is all but a done deal, especially given the BC Liberals’ ability to handicap their chances of re-election with each passing week.
Given the party’s free-fall in the polls, it’s unlikely the BC Liberals will rally behind coastal residents’ call for government subsidies for fear of losing what little of their base is left in the North, Interior and Lower Mainland.
Sadly, that leaves this latest report on the shelf beside findings from countless other well-intentioned public engagement exercises.
At least the report will be at the top of that growing pile, in easy view of whichever party is selected to govern the province for the next four years.
Although service cuts are clearly a looming reality, the report’s findings show coastal residents are open to a number of creative options with the potential to significantly reinvent the BC Ferry Services Inc. we’ve all grown accustomed to.
More than 60 per cent agreed some routes may be better served by a bridge. Nearly 80 per cent want BC Ferries to consider replacing aging vessels with ships powered by “alternative fuels” like liquefied natural gas. Approximately 66 per cent of respondents suggest the company look into the use of passenger-only vessels.
Who knows if any of these options will bring BC Ferries out of the red, but there’s always hope a newly elected government will be moved to pick up the slack.
Gulf Islands Driftwood