FAC Chair, John Hodgkins, gives his first reactions to today’s announcement.
So, the cuts have been announced. Very few surprises…. late sailings on almost every gulf island route will go. For Gabriola, this means the last ferry back from town will be 9.25 pm every day – and potentially 8.20pm on Wednesdays, though that’s not clear yet (Quinsam has to be refuelled in Nanaimo every Wednesday evening and Sunday mornings, and there’s no provision for that in the Province’s plans). The first sailing (5.25am) from Gabriola will be cancelled Saturdays and Sundays.
For BC Seniors there is the double-whammy of the end of free travel on Monday to Thursday, to be replaced by a 50% discount instead.
So who will feel the impact of these cuts? Anyone working shifts in town and finishing later than 9.15 pm will have no ferry home to Gabriola. Evening cinema and theatre trips will be out. Concerts? Forget it, unless you have somewhere to stay in town. And if your power goes out in the evening, BC Hydro trucks will be gone by 9pm instead of 11pm as now. Ferry crews, most of whom are Gabriolans, will also feel the impact through reduced pay.
But what about the cost to the BC Ambulance service? Right now, the ambulance can take patients off the island right up to 11pm. In future, emergency calls after 9pm will have to be dealt with on island, with patients needing hospital treatment facing a rough boat ride or, for the most serious, helicopter evacuation. Major cost implications for sure.
But will these cuts solve BC Ferries’ financial woes? Very unlikely, I’d say. Back in 2012,when the Province drew up targets for efficiency savings within BC Ferries ($15m) and service reductions ($30m) ferry traffic was predicted to continue at 2012 levels. But fares increases have continued to drive traffic away, and as a result the income to BC Ferries was $4m less than expected in 2012. All of the signs are that the decline has continued into 2013, so by the end of this year the shortfall could be $8 million for 2013. With service cuts, things can only get worse. By the end of this 4-year Performance Term (in 2016) some predictions show the potential shortfall in revenue could be as much as $28 million – so today’s announcement of measures to save $14 million could be just the start.
John Hodgkins, Gabriola FAC Chair.