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Council supports public protest against changes proposed by BC Ferries

"Maybe you've heard about it, but BC Ferries is messing with our lives," Richard Goth told members of Bowen's municipal council this week.

"Maybe you've heard about it, but BC Ferries is messing with our lives," Richard Goth told members of Bowen's municipal council this week. "I'm kind of getting hit a second time, when I turned 21 they lowered the drinking age to 19, and now that I'm almost old enough to get a senior's discount, they're messing with my perk!"

Goth asked council for an official acknowledgment of support for the people who will gather this coming Saturday at the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay to protest cuts to the ferry service and the raising of fares.

Mayor Jack Adelaar told Goth that he believed the planned protest was a good idea, but reassured him that MLA Jordan Sturdy is on Bowen Island's side. Adelaar also justified council's relative silence on the ferries issue.

"If we've been silent, it's because we're negotiating, and you can't negotiate out in public."

Councillor Wolfgang Duntz said that as a representative to the Islands Trust, he found the silence of Bowen's Council difficult to justify.

"In my laymen's understanding, I explained that as we are in a Liberal riding we are better off using quiet diplomacy to deal with the issue. Only time will tell if that's the correct way or not."

Richard Goth's request to council was followed up by a similar plea by Gordon Ganong, chair of Bowen Island's Economic Development Committee.

"I would like to see you councillors join in with Bowen Islanders at the protest on Saturday," said Ganong. "And I would like to see you pass a resolution reinforcing the letters that council has sent supporting home-porting and the exchange of the Queen of Capilano with the Island Sky. "

Later in the meeting, when the issues of ferries came up again, Councillor Tim Rhodes brought up the idea of designating an official liaison to the Coastal-Mainland Coalition. This led to further discussion about making support for Bowen Islanders protesting against BC Ferries official.

Led by Alison Morse, council crafted, moved and seconded the following statement of support:

Council strongly supports the work of the Bowen community in respectful protest of the service cuts, fare increases and diminishing discounts for seniors; and that Council wishes to express its extreme disappointment with the Province's disregard for the social and economic impact to Bowen Island and other ferry-dependent communities as a result of their actions with BC Ferries' service and fare levels.

Richard Goth says that he is pleased with this resolution.

"It's a good statement," he said following council.

Goth also elaborated on a story he told to council, of a very successful protest by Bowen Islanders against BC Ferries in 1997.

"BC Ferries raised the rates, literally, overnight," says Goth. "At the time we were buying books of tickets at the General Store, and BC Ferries called the General Store with the new rate so we couldn't even buy those books at the old price over the weekend, before the official date when the change was to take place. Well, a few of us were sitting at the Snug and said, 'We have to do something!' Word of our plans, to protest on Friday afternoon in Horseshoe Bay, spread like wildfire. We believe there were close to 600 Bowen Islanders in attendance. Our protest was followed, one week later, by a similar one by users of the Langdale ferry. That was November, by December, the government had rolled back the ferry rates 33 percent, to their previous price."

Goth says that he is particularly upset about the changes to seniors' fares, but would be more than happy to see BC's ferries become a bare-bones service, as it once was.

"The whole system is bloated," he says. "They need to focus on vessels and crew, navigation and safety equipment and that's it. Back when we had the Howe Sound Queen, there were hard benches on the upper level and barely even a washroom, but it was functional. But to jack up the rates so people question whether or not to even take the ferry, and cut back the service? They're going about this all wrong."

Goth says that he and his wife have made a conscious decision to ride the ferry less in order to save money, and now go to town once per month to do their shopping, instead of every two weeks.

As of Wednesday, March 12, the group Bowen Islanders for Ferry Fairness had 50 confirmed participants for the upcoming protest, as well as support from businesses in Horseshoe Bay. Their hope is that 100 protesters from Bowen will join them to walk on the ferry this Saturday at 11:30 and rally outside the Horseshoe Bay Terminal.