BC Ferries faces cafeteria boycott

By David P. Ball, 24 hours Vancouver

A BC Ferries vessel pulls out of Horseshoe Bay.

A BC Ferries vessel pulls out of Horseshoe Bay. (CARMINE MARINELLI/24 HOURS)

A new campaign is encouraging BC Ferries passengers to protest service cuts by cutting back on food purchases while they're on board.

As the government prepares to release the results of last month's public consultations on the service reductions, the website FerryHostage.com is calling for negotiations on the cutbacks — which include the lost of 6,895 coastal sailings and slashing seniors discounts.

Touting slogans such as “Our economies are starving too,” FerryHostage.com is calling for passengers to stop buying food on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to send a message that coastal communities are unhappy about ferry cuts.

A BC Ferries spokeswoman estimated the company brings in roughly $75 million every year from on-board food sales and other services.

“I understand people can express their opinions in any way they choose,” Deborah Marshall said. “But I want to remind people that the profits help keep fares down. The revenue we generate from food and retail all gets ploughed back into the company.”

In an online statement attributed to spokeswoman Stephanie Clarke, the Gibsons resident argued ferry service is a “necessity” for her community.

“Costs of ferry travel for coastal residents should be more in line with the funding of roads and highways,” she wrote. “It feels somewhat discriminatory really.”

Hornby Island resident Tony Law, who is a co-chair of B.C.'s ferry advisory committee, said such protests are a sign that “immensely frustrated” residents feel they're not being heard.

“This has been a top-down approach that has not involved any understanding of the role that ferries play in people's lives and their economic importance to communities,” he said. “Hopefully they get the message or at the very least delay implementation.”

Announcing the changes last November, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said the “tough decisions” would “ensure that our coastal ferry service is sustainable for future generations.”

“When you approach a change of this magnitude, the only way to do it is look people in eyes and talk to them about why it's necessary,” he added.


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