Following the Defend our Marine Highways rally at the BC Legislature on March 11th, Transportation Minister Todd Stone was quick to publicly react. Among other things, the Minister suggested the government knows more than they are letting on. He admitted:
“We certainly know there will be some impact from a tourism perspective.”
Based on Minister Stone’s certainty, it begs the question, what does the government know that they are not telling us? What is the impact and how big? Will the cost to coastal business communities be greater than the $19 million dollars they are seeking to save through ferry schedule reductions? What about the long-term impact?
Tourism aside, what about:
- Harm to small businesses and job creation?
- Decline in coastal real estate values?
- Impact on environmental, social, and cultural values?
- Increased cost to deliver health care & education?
- Impact on access, cost, and quality of other government services?
If the cost of delivering other services increases in coastal communities as a consequence of a diminished ferry service, what is the burden on the shoulders of BC taxpayers?
We are learning that our self-styled “business-friendly” government is not by default a “business-savvy” government. The government’s reckless decision-based evidence-making is causing angst and unnecessary uncertainty in our coastal communities. These political decisions have already had a chilling effect on potential economic investments. Would you invest your money when an essential service is being slashed?
We need to see the information Stone is using to justify those “impacts from a tourism perspective.” We need proof that increasing fares and decreasing services is in the overall interest of coastal communities and the province.
In February, the City of Prince Rupert released a study exposing the most glaring gap in the government's process: the complete absence of an economic impact assessment that shows the cost of the government’s $19 million worth of “savings.”
Premier Christy Clark, also provided a response to the rally. In a brief interview the Premier said:
“We have to with BC Ferries, ensure that we keep rates low, as we are doing, make sure we keep the system sustainable over the long term, which we are doing, and maintain service to communities.”
Despite the Premier’s best attempts to reframe reality, the people dependent on the BC Ferries know differently. The rates continue to rise, threatening the long-term sustainability of the service and the health and well-being of many coastal communities.
The rhetoric from the BC Government used to justify the increased costs and cuts to service are not good enough, Minister Stone. Give us the proof to justify your proposed changes.