Opinion

Gabriola thrown a life preserver

Without regular, reliable ferry sailings, Gabriola Island is so close, yet so far.

Fortunately, it’s looking as though the ferry will be arriving and departing as usual, for the most part, and that Gabriolans will continue to be able to go to and fro.

The Ministry of Transportation still wants B.C. Ferries to proceed with sailing reductions up and down the coast as a cost-saving measure, but perhaps now the cuts will at least be implemented as painlessly as possible. Minister Todd Stone threw out a life preserver last week and reiterated that route reductions will be up for discussion, suggesting the goverment heard and heeded the concerns of island residents this winter.

Last November, the ministry and the corporation announced cuts and cancellations, including the elimination of early-morning and late-night sailings on the Nanaimo-to-Descanso Bay run. Gabriola Island residents rightly protested the plan, and a compromise will be reached. Stone said there is some wiggle room with the schedule, and perhaps midday sailings could be eliminated instead of the first and last sailings each day. Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee chairman John Hodgkins called the idea the “least worst” option, and that sounds about right.

Waiting around at the terminal an extra hour in the middle of the day is a pain, as any Vancouver Island resident knows well. But ultimately it’s just an inconvenience, whereas cutting the early-morning and late-night runs would seriously impact commutes for Gabriola’s students and workforce.

B.C. Ferries has, for a long while now, been caught in a whirlpool of rising fares and declining ridership and this won’t be the last batch of service cuts, to be sure. The idea of further route reductions will be floated again, sooner than later. We shouldn’t just grit our teeth and bear it. We must remind the government that we rely on these ferries, and then remind them again and again, ad infinitum.

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