Haida Gwaii feeling the impact of ferry cuts

Those on Haida Gwaii are seeing a variety of problems just weeks after one sailing per week was cut.

While businesses in Prince Rupert are beginning to feel the pinch of reduced ferry service, those on Haida Gwaii are seeing a variety of problems just weeks after one sailing per week was cut.

Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha said the effects are being felt by every sector of the island, from businesses to residents and from young to old.

“It’s a huge issue for us … we are not doing well,” she said.

One particular concern, she said, is the extra strain the combination of cuts and full ferries are having on people requiring medical treatment.

“The medical piece is very difficult because when they cut the sailing, they cut the ability for someone to go over, get two days of treatment and come back,” she said.

“People used to leave on Monday, consult with their doctor on Tuesday, get tests or follow up on Wednesday and return on Thursday. Now people leave Tuesday and return Thursday, which means they only have one day so they have to go back again. The alternative for multiple days of care is they have to pay for accommodations for a week.”

But it’s not just patients being affected. Much like the trailers needed to carry goods to Haida Gwaii, there is no certainty when it comes to round-trip reservations.

“I am supposed to come over on the weekend of May 22, but while I can get over with a vehicle there is no reservation available on the way back so I won’t be taking my car,” she said.

“This is a common story. You can’t get back on the ferry.”

With no confirmation of a spot on the ferry, Kulesha said businesses that rely on off-island visitors are having a tough time early in the tourist season.

“It’s a huge impact for tourism because even though you can get over, there is no guarantee you can get back,” she said.

“The accommodation sector is really being impacted because people won’t come here if they can’t be assured they can go back.”

The Misty Isles Economic Development Society is in the midst of gathering hard data on just how severe the effects of the service cuts are, but Kulesha said BC Ferries needs to see what is happening on Haida Gwaii and be open to making change.

“I’m sure these are unintended consequences, but that is the problem. There are too many unintended consequences with no solutions being sought,” she said.

“There should be flexibility and they should be able to change the schedule.”