Sitting in the audience at the BC Ferries open house on proposed ferry cuts, there were two things that became abundantly clear.
The first was that those on the panel who don’t live on the North Coast don’t necessarily view the BC Ferry service between Prince Rupert and Skidegate as part of the provincial highway system — but everyone who took the time out to attend a meeting in Sandspit, Queen Charlotte, Masset or Prince Rupert does. It’s how people on Haida Gwaii get their groceries, their mail, their access to medical procedures and how they connect with their families. The message was one delivered time and time again and should be the top point for the traveling bureaucrat roadshow to take back to Victoria when these meetings are done.
That segues nicely into the second thing that became very clear: The people that were sent around the province and the consultation process itself was nothing more than a petty public relations tactic by BC Ferries and the B.C. government. They are, in effect, completely powerless and fully acknowledged it by stating that any decisions about the cuts or the timing of the cuts would be made by elected officials.
They were, in essence, glorified messengers. They brought information to the people of the North Coast and they were bringing information back to people who have some semblance of power in Victoria. They sent along a deputy minister and a BC Ferries vice-president, but they might as well have sent along a DVD and a tape recorder for all the difference it makes.
Mayors Jack Mussallem and Dave MacDonald of Port Edward said they would be taking the issue directly to the Premier, and here’s hoping other municipal leaders in the effected communities join in and make an en masse spectacle at Christy Clark’s office. Sending simple messengers, not decision-makers, will do nothing to squash the fears that the decisions have been made and the feedback from these open houses doesn’t matter.
It is now up to the government to prove us wrong.