British Columbia

Proposed cuts to ferry service lead to resignations on Denman and Hornby islands

Residents of Denman and Hornby islands are upset with BC Ferries' plan to cut service to their communities. Nearly half of the ferry advisory committee has resigned in protest.

Four members of the ferry advisory committee step down as BC Ferries looks to cut sailings

Proposed cuts to weekday afternoon and Friday evening sailings have residents of Denman and Hornby islands upset. (BC Ferries/Twitter)

Nearly half of the ferry advisory committee for Denman and Hornby islands has resigned in protest after members were told late last week about planned service cutbacks by BC Ferries. 

Daniel Arbour, elected director for Baynes Sound-Denman/Hornby Islands, was one of four committee members to step down Friday. 

Arbour says BC Ferries' proposed cuts to weekday afternoon and Friday evening sailings came out of nowhere, with no consultation.

"We have basically had radio silence from BC Ferries and now we are looking at a cutback," he said.

Arbour says regular ferry service to Denman and Hornby islands is critical for everything from emergency services to education, business and health care. 

The year-round population of each island is around 1,000 people, but the population swells dramatically in the summer months as people flock to the islands for vacations. 

Arbour says the changes that were outlined to the advisory committee last week are a move in the wrong direction and mirror service changes made in 2014 that were roundly opposed and ultimately reversed.

"Last time they did this we had 200 people sign a petition," he said.

'Losing millions of dollars a day'

BC Ferries say cuts in service are needed to help address the steep decline in revenue the company has seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are losing about a million dollars a day, so while some of the savings may seem small, every penny counts," said Deborah Marshall, spokesperson for BC Ferries.

Marshall says in the past they have operated more sailings to Denman and Hornby islands than was required by their contract with the province. Since March, Marshall says, usage on those routes has dropped to 27 per cent of normal, which is why BC Ferries is now looking to cut discretionary sailings.

The final schedule is still being worked out and Arbour says he is hopeful strong opposition by residents will lead BC Ferries to reconsider its plans.
 

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