Ferries..Free Rides or Frugality?
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Ferries..Free Rides or Frugality?

Prince Rupert : Canada | Apr 01, 2011 at 3:58 PM PDT
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Working on the Boats

I grew up on a small island just offshore of West Vancouver, British Columbia. Bowen Island was just 2-3 miles from the mainland and was serviced by BC Ferries. Since the early 1960's the Government of BC bought the old Black Ball ferries off of Washington state and created a Provincial service..and expanded it. Now..from Horseshoe Bay you can travel to both the Sunshine Coast, Bowen Island AND Nanaimo on Vancouver Island some 30 km away across the Georgia Strait.

BUT..the ferries have always been a political football in British Columbia. Each newly elected government tends to hold residents to ransom as they dither & bicker over fare hikes with each administration. Many people rely on these ferries to commute to work on the "short" hauls and depend on them for an income for delivery of services etc on the "long" hauls. And there ARE some long hauls. The BC Ferries services the whole coastline including runs from Northern Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert..an 18 hour "upcoast" trip. The fleet is as large as the Canadian Navy!

Some years ago the Liberal government decided to "semi-privatize`the system and brought in a whole different culture of administration. Since then..there has been problems both with fares & service.

The NEW election cycle is proving to be no different from the last..with ferry fares becoming an issue once again.

For decades the Ferry System has been considered a part of our vital transportation link in the province. The original intentio in the early 60`s was to "buy out" a private system and create a semi-subsidized provincial system to replace it. The system now hovers between having to make money and still supply a reasonable (and affordable!) service for the customers.

The debate continues as regular as the "toot..toot..tooot" of the behemoths as they ply the fogbound coast of British Columbia.

To pay..or NOT to pay?

That IS the question for many island bound voters of BC.

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Andy Mathisen is based in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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