Monday, May 5, 2014

MLA Rice highlights Ferry issues for Haida Gwaii in the Legislature

The increasing cost of BC Ferries services and the reduction in that service was among the discussion points at the Legislature last week, as MLA Jennifer Rice outlined some of the impact that recent developments with the Ferry service have provided for Haida Gwaii residents.

Outlining some concerns from School District 50 on Haida Gwaii as well as from parents and other users of the Ferry to Prince Rupert, who fear that the changes will provide a larger burden on them when it comes to medical and other appointments in Prince Rupert and further inland.

Ms. Rice introduced her themes during a Committee Session for the Ministry of Education, expressing her concerns on the issues to Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

Speaking of visiting districts, we all think we're special and we all think our constituencies are special, but I do think that some of the needs in rural communities are pretty unique. On that note, I wanted to ask about school district 50, which is on Haida Gwaii. I'm actually just sort of trying a different venue. The superintendent for school district 50 had written a letter to the Minister of Transportation in November and didn't hear a response. Subsequently he wrote a letter to B.C. Ferries in March of this year and didn't get a response. So I did say that I would try a different venue, just in relation to how the recent cuts and changes to B.C. Ferries may have saved money in one area but have downloaded costs into another department. I wanted to highlight that. 

Ms. Rice also highlighted the impact that the changes to the Ferry schedule are having on parents of children, who have to take longer and longer periods of time away from the Islands for such things as medical and dental appointments.

I'd love any opportunity to highlight some of the challenges that we face in the north. Even high school students that have orthodontic work in Prince Rupert used to take Monday off school and get to Prince Rupert Monday evening. The orthodontist, who's a visiting orthodontist, would stay open and do a night clinic and service all the kids on Haida Gwaii. Then they would get back on the ferry and arrive in Haida Gwaii on Tuesday morning and go to school from the ferry. That's no longer an option because they would subsequently have to take three days off school. So now the question is: do you take that much time off school and service your braces or not have orthodontic work? 

Taking the cue from Ferry users on Haida Gwaii, the North Coast MLA wrapped up her presentation to the Legislature, asking for a delay in the implementation of the schedule to reduce the impact on this school year.

What (he's) asking is that B.C. Ferries delay the scheduled shift for the ferries until September so that they can actually just get through the rest of the school year. That would be my question to the minister: if he would be willing to advocate with other ministries or B.C. Ferries or his colleague in the Ministry of Transportation to allow the ferry schedule to return back to normal, to allow them to get through the rest of the school year. They've actually also had to renegotiate contracts with bus providers, etc. 

In his replay to Ms. Rice, Minister Fassbender, suggested that some of her questions might have be out of his Ministerial reach at that time.

He then asked that MLA Rice provide copies of the letters of note on the issue, which he advised he would then take up with the Minister of Transportation.

You can review the discussion from the Legislature Archives from the Committee session, the conversation starts at the 1600 mark on the timeline.

The Video Archive also hosts a review of the discussion in that session of April 30th, the topic is introduced at the 70 minute mark.

For more information on developments at the BC Legislature see our Legislature Archive page.

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