Fiscal Fairness for Coastal Communities, written by Powell River Chamber of Commerce President Jack Barr, February 08, 2016.
It is unfortunate when a possible viable option to replace an expensive, inconvenient, and unreliable part of the BC Ferry system is explored, it is met with cynicism and disparagement as opposed to supporting positive change in our region. I’m referring to the response to the news that a company has been hired to explore a fixed link to replace one or more ferry route from the lower mainland to the lower and/or upper Sunshine Coast.
As president of the Powell River Chamber of Commerce, and an active board member of Sunshine Coast Tourism, I do whatever I can to try to create practical and constructive economic recovery for Powell River and the Coast. In my opinion, the time has come to connect the Sunshine Coast (and beyond) with the Lower Mainland, and although I respect the opinions of those who are uncertain of this idea for the Coast, I strongly believe a feasibility study to assess the pros and cons of such link is of great value. Once the facts are presented, then an informed debate is needed, as the link will be a ‘game changer’ for the entire coast, and possibly even be the missing link to Vancouver Island through Powell River to Campbell River.
Although it is not likely that a link will miraculously appear in the next few years, this study is part of a long term strategy to eliminate anywhere from 1 to 6 ferry routes, which will benefit the economies of at least six coastal communities in anywhere from 10 to 40 years. We should work together to keep the pressure on whichever political party is in power to make sure our coastal highway remains safe and efficient. Just as the lifestyle we enjoy on the west coast would not be here without the CPR connection in 1886, and the economic infrastructure developed through highways by the Bennett/Gaglardi duo in the late 50’s and early 60’s. now is the time to start looking at phasing out ferries where feasible. It may not be any less expensive, but I’m sure a toll on a bridge or highway linking the Lower Coast is better than the ever escalating ferry ‘un-Fares’.
Our coastal communities grew when the Bennett government developed a marine highway, but now they are being slowly choked to death. The lower coast population is decreasing and there are talks of closing schools. The Powell River economy is suffering and now is the time to focus on all possible solutions to the problems of our age old ferry system.
We have all been working hard to see positive changes to the ferries system. Where the ferries need and can be fixed, fix them. Where they need to be, and can affordably be replaced, replace them. But for crying out loud, let’s get behind the options and try and support them so that when the government is investing in a study, they hear us in a positive response.