To the Editor,
A recent estimate of a bridge system to replace the Gabriola ferry, by the previous Minister of Transportation, Blair Lekstrom, was $100 million.
This is up from $35 million when the NDP created the Islands Trust and incorporated into the Official Community Plan in 1974.
Since that time, millions have been spent on ferry fares by Gabriola residents and their service providers. We are left with a ferry, that will have to be replaced and future fuel, labour and terminal expenses that are unsustainable.
At the present time $6 million is spent annually for the Gabriola ferry service – $5 million by the user group, and the balance by the provincial taxpayers. This money could pay off the cost of the bridge system in about 20 years leaving an inexpensive transportation system that could be supported by tolls. There would be a need for a passenger-only service to downtown Nanaimo and a bus service that would use the bridge.
Why are we being forced to accept an expensive, unsustainable ferry option, compared to a far more effective bridge system?
The province has just let the contract for a public engagement process, to canvass coastal communities for their opinions on the future of the ferry system. The southern Gulf Islands, largely Salt Spring Island, have an annual subsidy of $26 million and this does not include the collected fares by the user groups. In the case of Salt Spring Island we are talking about $1 billion going down the drain every 20 years. Not sustainable in a competitive world.
Individuals that want to keep the ferries should pay the largest proportion. Those that would prefer an inexpensive bridge system should pay a lot less.