Sandspit residents are insisting the Kwuna’s schedule not be changed during or after its refit, and are faxing letter after letter to Victoria to make that point.
“We don’t want restricted access,” says Gail Henry, chair of the Moresby Island Management Committee (MIMC).
With the Kwuna heading out Sunday for a refit, and the evening schedule dropped, many are concerned BC Ferries will say the reduced service works fine.
“This community and every other should have all sorts of concerns,” Mrs. Henry said.
Sandspit residents are also concerned that the Kwuna be based in Alliford Bay, and not on the Skidegate side.
The Kwuna is an essential service to Moresby Islanders, who rely on the ferry for many things including access to the Queen Charlotte hospital. But it is essential to all islanders for access to the airport, employment opportunities on either island, educational and cultural exchanges and recreation.
“Really its our highway,” Mrs. Henry reminds islanders. She says the service started out under the ministry responsible for highways, but somewhere along the way the provincial government decided to take all ocean-going ferries into the BC Ferry Corporation.
Ferries across lakes in the interior are still considered highway services, she says.
“Just as a highway between population centres is not heavily utilised at all hours of the day, the same applies to the Kwuna,” states one of the letters being sent to BC Ferry Services chief executive officer David Hahn. The letters are also being sent to Kevin Falcon, Minister of Transportation, Captain Edward Dahlgren, marine superintendent on the North Coast and Captain Gordon Nettleton, marine superintendent of inter-island services.
Those who wish to support the protest can find a stack of letters to sign at Queen Bs in Queen Charlotte. They will all be faxed together, says Pat Carrie Smith of Sandspit who is on the Moresby Island Stabilization Initiative, a committee of the MIMC.
Captain Dahlgren said nothing will happen regarding the Kwuna’s schedule until consultation and agreement with islanders takes place. Changes without consensual agreement can not take place until 2008, he says.
BC Ferries communications department has been tasked with organizing a meeting with islanders, but with the summer of ferry mishaps, discussions around the Kwuna have fallen down the priority list, Cpt. Dahlgren indicated.
He expects a plan for meetings will be in place by October.
Cpt. Dahlgren said the shortened ferry schedule during the refit is due to the availability of barge services and the contracts they maintain with their unions. To maintain the full schedule during the refit would have entailed four hours of overtime each day.
“We are trying to be fiscally responsible,” he said.
He hopes to dispel some of the rumours circulating on the islands.
“There is no back door to sneak through to put together a different process,” he says. Islanders must come to a consensus agreement with BC Ferries before any schedule changes can be considered.
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