Last fall, the Province held more than 40 meetings up and down the coast as part of its Coastal Ferries Consultation and Engagement programme, to elicit the public’s views on how a short-term action plan to reduce ferry costs – and a longer term vision for the future of our ferry services – should be developed. That process cost taxpayers and ferry users getting on for $1 million – yet the consultant’s report still left many questions unanswered – and no hint of how the service adjustments (cuts) would impact ferry users.

This week, the Province issued a new Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting consultants to bid for a contract to take that work forward, specifically:
– to work with Ministry staff to prepare a Vision document outlining the challenges and strategies to achieve the Province’s long-term vision;
– to develop a route-specific ferry adjustment plan to ensure the sustainability of the ferry system
– to engage citizens and local governments in areas that will be impacted by changes to ferry services

The RFP invites bids to be submitted by August 27, with a target for on-line/in person public engagement to take place during November and December 2013. The full RFP can be viewed here. The successful bidder will be required to report back to government early next year to fit with the government’s planned April 2014 date for service changes to be implemented.

Reacting to the RFP, Gabriola FAC Chair John Hodgkins says he’s disappointed there’s no indication the government intends to conduct an assessment of transport needs in the communities that are likely to be affected.  Citing a similar Ferries Review conducted by the Scottish Government between 2008 and 2010, a key element of that process was a comprehensive needs assessment to identify the extent of each island’s dependency on the ferry service for commuting, personal and business travel; delivery of goods and services, and tourism.

So, if the BC government doesn’t intend to consider an assessment of needs, who will? He urges local governments to work together with FACs this time around to ensure that the needs of island communities are properly identified before the government casts its proposals in stone.

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