While at this time their strategy is unknown, the Skeena — Queen Charlotte Regional District (SQCRD) is hoping a meeting with the Premier will save BC Ferries route cuts on Haida Gwaii.
The SQCRD will be asking coastal and northern communities as far as Prince George to join them in a request to meet with Premier Christy Clark to discuss service cuts to BC Ferries and the serious impacts they will have on Haida Gwaii and northern B.C.
The idea to speak with the premier came from Anna Ashley, who represents the City of Prince Rupert on the regional district, at last Friday’s regional district meeting. Ashley expressed her frustration the government subsidizes roads in the province, but doesn’t provide a transportation link that’s essential to the North Coast.
“I think we need to go to the top … [The regional district and other communities] need to request a meeting with the Premier. That’s the only person that will have any impact,” Ashley said.
“If she’s not willing to come to us, we need to send people to her.”
Sandspit representative Evan Putterill said many areas of savings have already been suggested to the provincial government, and the last shot at keeping ferry runs in the North Coast could be tying the cuts in with resource development in the area that the provincial government has been pushing.
“We need to focus on the fact that the government is selling the expansion of our region and selling all of these benefits, but at the same time cutting our services,” Putterill said.
“We need to take a serious reconsideration of this industrial development in the north if the government isn’t making any show of good faith when it comes to service delivery.”
But board members worried going that route could alienate communities that need the development, and agreed to not use the approach. Many strategies were suggested, but the board agreed to first request a meeting before deciding on one.
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice was in attendance at the meeting and said her plan is to publicize the impacts the cuts will have on communities and bring them to the legislature in February.
“If people keep feeding me these stories, especially around impacts to economy and health, I’ll keep pushing them,” she said.
“I think that’s all we can do now: Disgrace the government by showing they’re further putting communities into poverty and health risks.”
Early in discussion Carol Kulesha, mayor of Queen Charlotte, pointed out the reduction in ferry runs will limit the days mail can be delivered to Haida Gwaii residents.
Michael Racz, representative for Electoral Area D, said a number of high school students depend on the ferry system to travel to school, and if ferry sailings don’t line up with when the orthodontist is in Prince Rupert, children on the island won’t be able to get braces.