You’re expecting me to rant and rave about BC Ferries, aren’t you?
I expect so. I suppose I could, but I’m just not sure what point there is to it anymore.
A lot of folks – residents, and representatives of industry and local government throughout the province – have been responsible for some damned fine ranting and raving on this subject over the years.
And guess, what? Nobody’s listening. I’m not sure that anybody’s ever been listening.
BC Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee has approved a 12 per cent fare increase over three years. Allegedly this is to offset capital expenditures (read, “failure of the province to maintain the fleet until it was almost too late”). Deborah Marshall once again pointed out, in a tired, thinly-veiled reference to the northern routes, that some of their departures were sailing empty.
We all placed our hope in Gord Macatee. Were our hopes misplaced, or were the overwhelming facts and advice that residents showered upon him in his travels across the province simply not able to stand up to a political agenda?
Don’t ask me. Because you see, I can only find two remaining ways to view this.
The first is that BC Ferries is a ship of fools, guided by folks so inexperienced in the basic principles of business that they’d drive a lemonade stand into bankruptcy.
I don’t believe that. I know many of those same people, and they tend to be pretty clever.
The second and only remaining option is that we are witnessing the coldly planned obsolescence of northern ferry service. Fares are driven up until ridership drops, then fares are driven higher, until in the end we are told that it is sadly and inevitably necessary to cease or seriously reduce service.
It saddens me that I have no option left but to believe this second scenario.
I’m sad because what seemed to be a compassionate and receptive tour of the province by Commissioner Gord Macatee turns out to have been no more than lip service.
I’m sad because it means that the proud old Dogwood Fleet now views itself as no more than a profitable bus service between Vancouver and the Island.
But more than anything I’m sad because it means that the province just doesn’t care about the subsidy agreement of April 18, 1977, and all of the other demonstrations of federal and provincial responsibility for a marine highway on the BC coast. They don’t care about northern industry, or about BC residents outside the urban centres.
I know I’ve become tiresome in pointing out that the loss of the Queen of the North shook the tourism industry from the gate receipts at Buchart Gardens to hotel reservations in Saskatchewan, but this rate increase also shows that the province doesn’t give a lick about the vital industry of tourism in BC.
I’m not proposing a conspiracy theory. I have been led to a logical, inescapable conclusion. If there’s an alternate explanation for skyrocketing fares being used to kill northern ferry service, I hope that the premier will explain it to us. In fact, given how vital this service is to the northern economy and standard of living, I pray that the premier will explain it.
And please, Premier Clark, no more of this, “We simply weren’t able to sell our bottles of soda pop at $20 each, so we now have no choice but to sell them for $25.” I’m sure that in addition to having grown cranky and jaded, I may have also become a tad doddery in my declining years. I’m sure that this is simply a case of my being unable to think clearly enough to understand your vision.
But either way, please give us the truth. We can handle it. If you just don’t care, please tell us so that we may govern ourselves accordingly.