BC Ferries strong arm commuters with sea-leg proposals

Illustration by Ed Appleby

Why empty threats will not save money

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 17, 2014

The problem BC Ferries faces is a common one: many transportation enterprises have been known to lose money. But the way they are handling it is classless, knowing that they have a monopoly. Commuters traveling to and from the island do not have another alternative, and to act as though keeping the Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo route, one of the most popular routes for BC Ferries, is doing the public a great favour, well that is as if BC Hydro decided to turn off the power in the middle of the night to save money, since well, nobody needs electricity while they sleep, right?

BC Ferries’ clever tactic was to present a whole bunch of despicable proposals. Then, when everybody got pissed enough, they gave us an indisputable alternative: fare increase. Wow, didn’t see that coming. Thanks.

In a viral open letter to BC Ferries posted on Facebook, Campbell River resident Sean Smith explains his frustration claiming that he doesn’t understand why BC Ferries is presenting itself as some sort of luxury cruise ship, embarking on an exotic destination. BC Ferries at its best is a vessel for a weekend getaway, and for most people who use it, it’s an overpriced Sea Bus. Smith goes on to say that the vessel does not need a fancy restaurant, it does not need a marketing department, and it does not need bold advertisements in Rogers Arena. We don’t see ads in public areas telling us to ride the bus do we? What BC Ferries needs to do is get off its high horse and act accordingly.

The government doesn’t want to pay for the ferries anymore and for many who live on the island that is just ridiculous since many of the island taxpayers support infrastructure in the Lower Mainland, and the demand to cross the strait is as high as ever. Someone at some point in the office of BC’s Transportation and Infrastructure Ministry messed up. But it doesn’t seem as though the government is trying to fix the problem; rather, they are subtly adjusting it, turning our attention in another direction. Maybe this whole business is just to distract us while Enbridge takes over. Conspiracy alert!

What we need now is a private organization to stand up and see the opportunity. There is a lot of growth on Vancouver Island, a region in our province larger than many island nations in the world, and connecting it with the rest of the country can only be seen as a benefit. After all, there is a bridge linking Prince Edward Island, a landmass less than half the size of Vancouver Island with approximately six times fewer people, to the mainland.

The solution is right in front of our eyes but for many who make the choices, it’s too big of a commitment. By having the BC Ferries as a scapegoat, the public will have something consistent to complain about. There will always be problems for the government; why not centralize it? Why not foreshadow the worst and act as though they have saved the day by doing nothing except raising the price? Nice trick. Now do your job.

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