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Unique newspaper coverage of local, regional and global topics - serious and light-hearted.

Dec 13 Online Edition

So much to tell and we just couldn't write shorter! It's a long scroll (you can use the 'jumps' down the left side) to some great Readers' Letters at the bottom.

Disbelief and anger at ferry ‘Engagement Meetings’

Following announcements of cancelled trips on most minor routes, BC Ferries held ‘Community Engagement’ meetings in ferry-dependent communities from Haida Gwaii to the Southern Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast, attracting overflow crowds (800 in Powell River, 400 in Gibsons) and forcing the government to relocate meetings at subsequent location to larger halls.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone, in announcing the service cutbacks, had suggested that results of these meetings might suggest ‘tweaks’ to schedules to minimize the resulting pain. Instead, ferry users expressed, loudly and consistently, their recommendations that the Ministry should scrap the cuts and carry out proper research on community needs and economies before making any changes.

North Island MLA and Ferries Opposition Critic Claire Trevena noted that, unlike Minister Stone, she had attended many such meetings. ‘When is the transportation minister going to get the message that his reckless cuts will devastate coastal communities and hurt our province’s economy?’ she asked. Cariboo-Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett has questioned the cancellation of the mid-coast route connecting Port Hardy and Bella Bella with mid-coast ports.

Speaker after speaker at these meetings emphasized that the experiment with BC Ferries as an ‘independent’ company has been a total failure, and the service should once more be included in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, with capital costs assumed directly by the provincial government, and fare levels substantially reduced. Crowds expressed massive discontent with service levels, ‘mean-spirited’ fare increases for seniors, and the consultation process itself, where their ideas and opinions appeared to be repeatedly ignored by the government.

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A presentation, by Susan Yates, to BC Ferries at Gabriola meeting, December 10

Where to begin with the travesty you have made of our essential public transportation service?  The diplomacy and decorum I’ve used for the past 30 years in communicating with BC Ferries eludes me – as a tax-paying citizen of this province for 45 years, I’m angry at having to point out to you the obvious – you are not doing the job you’re supposed to do, the job you are paid well for, and for which you receive bonuses and retirement packages that we in this hall can only dream of.

How can BC Ferry Corporation representatives tell us they “have no plans past 2016”? Are you kidding?  You are paid to look at the numbers and figure out how to provide  transportation by ferry– the statistics for demographics and population growth are available to anyone. Are we shrinking?  No we are not!  Therefore the cavalier and arbitrary cuts you have come up with must be discarded, and some real planning must begin. 

When you leave this island remember that you have been in a community of engaged citizens, active participants in democracy (even if we have to reinvent it ourselves) and fiercely committed volunteers who donate as much to the livelihood and economy of this province as anyone within its borders.  Go back to your offices and figure out how to provide a service model that is completely different from the profit-motivated, selfish, short-term and nearsighted one you are using now.

You have three different components that need our marine highway:  first the tourists who can afford the fancy destination packages and circle tours BCFC advertises with glossy pamphlets and ads;  second the freight carriers who deserve the service they need – trucking stuff from Vancouver Island to the mainland via the shortest and most efficient route – ie a 24 hour service with no fancy lounges, casinos or gift shops.  This was supposed to have been provided by Duke Point, but what we have instead are truckers waiting in long lineups with RVs and holiday vehicles whose passengers are happy to take the 2-hour scenic route on a ship with all the bells and whistles.

And then there is your third constituent: all of us folks who live in coastal communities that have developed over the past 100 years according to a transportation service that was traditionally part of the entire province’s highway system. One of the longest and most vibrant coastlines in the world, and we have to beg for fair and decent treatment.

Let me present just two aspects of fair and decent. First:  next time you send out a survey pretending to be “engaging” the province to help you find answers to our basic transportation needs, don’t bother giving the survey to residents of the lower mainland, whose lives don’t depend on ferries.  If you think that’s fair, then let the people who depend on ferries fill out a survey to determine whether people in the Fraser Valley really do need that Port Mann doppelganger.  I say there are already too many cars clogging the roads and the air in the lower mainland, and a rapid transit system makes better sense than more roads and bridges. 

Second:  Forty years ago I worked in a small northern community that required plowing the connector road to Highway 97.  It was plowed twice a day, back and forth, 18 miles- that’s 72 miles a day, about half of the days between the end of October until the end of March.  No questions asked, no extra fares paid – as working citizens we shared the cost with the rest of B.C., and this was not the only outlying town requiring major winter road maintenance and repairs.  The Ministry of Transportation did not send out surveys to lower mainland folks to see if they thought the snow plows should be stopped to fix a broken budget.  We were a town of 1200 people – Gabriola has a population of 4,000 and we are growing.  

If our ferries are maintained at service levels appropriate to our community, we might one day hope for a median age of less than 59.  Some of us older folks care deeply about the young people in our community who provide not just basic services and a commitment to their home, but brilliant ideas and hopes for a sustainable future.

 The BC Ferry Corporation is running a broken system – it has been heading in the wrong direction since the early 1980s when the Corporation was invented to justify the removal of an essential service from its rightful provincial agency, and to segue into privatization.  The Corporation now exists for itself – a bloated middleman  – complete with CEOs, high-end downtown promotional offices, and the need to make a profit by taking unfairly and arbitrarily from citizens who are at the mercy of its feckless planning.

Go back to your offices and do some real planning – figure out what the social and economic impacts are to the whole region when you blithely announce major cuts to service and increases to ferry fares.  Remember that we pay twice – once with our taxes and then again with our fares.  If you need help looking past 2016 ask any 5 people in this room, or any of the hard-working members of the Ferry Advisory Committees up and down the coast of B.C. – they know how to have real community engagement, they know how to work out compromises, and they care about the future of island and coastal communities. Thank you for listening – it’s time you took us seriously.

Meanwhile BC Ferries boasts of over 125 extra sailings on Main Routes over the holidays; are Gulf Islands just the scenery? View a video which tells it like it is at: and visit

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BC Ferries ignoring the real money loser

Looking for genuine savings, Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) focused on Route 30, Tsawwassen - Duke Point. The route’s significant annual losses are hidden within the overall profitability of the mainland-Vancouver Island routes.

The route is heavily oriented towards commercial and freight traffic, uses two vessels, the Coastal Inspiration and the Queen of Alberni, and loses about $25 million per year. Current utilization is less than 50%, except in July and August.

The FACC recommendation is to reduce the current four daily shifts to three on weekdays, ten months of the year (four shifts in July and August). This should be combined with a system of 95% reservable capacity, similar to the Tsawwassen-Gulf Islands route, with a no show/late cancellation fee, to provide sailing certainty. Schedule adjustments should be discussed with freight and commercial carriers.
The FACC points out: ‘the larger the service, the more potential there is for finding and trimming fat.’

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Missing the bus and missing the point

(Stop Press) Thanks to islanders actions this story has a happy ending - now for ferries!

Since the 2009 inauguration of the Canada Line light rapid transit line from Richmond and the airport to Vancouver’s waterfront, things looked up for southern Gulf Islanders going to the big city. Reasonable bus connections to Bridgeport Station got islanders to and from the airport and downtown with ease—and a low carbon footprint. Despite missing a bus by 5 minutes (at 9:15am) islanders disembarking from Queen of Nanaimo were patient enough to wait for the 10am.

After years of lobbying, Translink seemed to be listening to islanders—with better connections, and bike racks. However they weren’t paying attention recently, when they reviewed ridership on the 620 Tsawwassen Ferry/Bridgeport Station route. In November, Translink announced cancellation of the 10am bus, the one islanders could catch, as of December 16. Apparently Translink based the decision on usage figures for main route connections, missing the significance of the bus to islanders, who need to cram in a full day of chores, appointments, hospital visits, or work before getting back for the evening ferry.

Islanders, especially from Galiano for whom Vancouver is the closest city—especially since the inauguration of the Canada Line—are incredulous. They have called on MLA Gary Holman to fight their corner after receiving a deaf ear to their appeals to Translink. A laughable name in this case; representatives of public transit seemed unable to even comprehend the schedule of getting from A to B. They did however apologize to for ‘any inconvenience these may changes may cause you’.

On December 10th, MLA Holman asked Mr Ian Jarvis, Chief Executive Officer of TransLink, ‘to delay implementation of this cancellation and to meet with me and the other relevant stakeholders including the Southern Gulf Island Ferry Advisory Committee and the Islands Trust.’ In a letter, Galiano’s Pearl Roberts quotes Translink’s mandate to ‘coordinating the delivery of public transportation throughout British Columbia, outside Metro Vancouver.’

At the eleventh hour the 10am bus has been saved. Translink has reversed its decision. Islander power at work!

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Plan for human-powered transport on Salt Spring

Salt Spring’s walking/cycling plan for the island is officially under the CRD’s wing. ‘Salt Spring Island’s Edition of the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan (PCMP) recognizes our unique island context and helps identify short and long term investments that can improve community health and economic development,’ says Wayne McIntyre, CRD Director. “It provides an excellent basis for future enhancements to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and focuses on utilizing our existing roads to support active transportation for residents and visitors.”

The SSI Edition identifies a continuous Primary Inter-Community bikeway network that, when completed over time, will meet the needs of cyclists of all ages and abilities. The design guidelines for the network will also support pedestrians by making it more attractive to walk and will accommodate those with mobility challenges.
‘The plan has a specific focus on investments that will enhance safety, increase connectivity between critical community destinations and support the tourism industry,’ says John Wakefield, member of the project’s Technical Advisory Committee. ‘By making cycling and walking more attractive and convenient, we can improve safety, increase economic activity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.’

Now that the plan is complete, the CRD Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission can begin investigating grants and funding opportunities for projects. The CRD will be using the SSI Edition as a part of its regional efforts in 2014 to expand innovative infrastructure, provide community education programming and encourage new cyclists and walkers.

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Large geoduck clam farming application made

Salish Sea farms Ltd, owned by the K’omoks First Nation, have made applications to the Province of BC to lease over 500 hectares of seabed in six separate areas off Denman Island and Vancouver Island to raise geoducks and possibly sea cucumbers for sale. Because geoducks and sea cucumbers are the responsibility of the federal government, the lease application is combined with an application to Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Originally, the deadline for comments on these applications was November 28, but it has now been extended to January 24.

The geoducks are cultivated in sections of plastic pipe driven vertically into the mud, on average ten metres below the low tide level. Sea cucumbers are cultivated in a mesh bag filled with oyster shells. The entire farm is to be protected from predators by netting over the top of the farm installation for 2 years of the 9 year growing cycle.

The total seabed area being applied for is 516.4 hectares. The locations are:
- Along the shore of Kye Bay, Vancouver Island, northwest of the ferry dock: approx. 55.7ha (App. 107650)
- Along the shore of Henry Bay, Denman Island, at the north end of Baynes Sound: approx 7.3ha (App. 102799)
- Along the shore of Komas Bluff, Denman Island: approx 118.7ha (App 107656)
- Off the north end (east side) of Denman Island, along the Comox Bar: approx 135.7ha (App 107637)
- Off Willemar Bluff, Cape Lazo, Vancouver Island: approx. 105.3ha (App 107646)
- East of Kye Bay, south of the ferry dock and east of the airport:: approx. 93.7ha.

Richard Hardy, representing the company, says that geoducks take eight to ten years to grow to harvestable size, and the area sought would allow for a ten-year crop rotation at about 50 hectares per year. He anticipates that the company would invest about $10 million per year for the first ten years, when the annual harvest would start, worth about $50 million per year.
Compared to the average size of shellfish tenures in the highly developed Baynes Sound area, the area required for this operation is very large. The company anticipates a very large operation to maintain it.
Questions have been raised about the impact these farming operations would have on herring spawning, centred on Lambert Channel (between Denman and Hornby Islands), which depends on the submerged vegetation found in the area. DFO is still working on policy for geoduck and sea cucumber cultivation.

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Double The Green Caucus for 2014 - Elizabeth May

As 2013 winds to a close, I have good news to share of a doubled caucus!  Independent MP Bruce Hyer (MP for Thunder Bay-Superior north) has taken out a membership in the Green Party of Canada and will now sit with me in Parliament as the second Green MP.

I am so very honoured that Bruce chose to join the Greens. He is a dedicated conservationist, a small business man with a clear understanding of the difference between rapacious globalization and healthy job-creation through sensible and sustainable economic success.  We both hope for the Green Party to be increasingly recognized as the party for small business.

Many of you will remember him as the sponsor of Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act.  Bruce managed to get in passed in the minority parliament of Stephen Harper, when the majority of votes were NDP and Liberal.  It was a hard struggle and Salt Spring Island residents Michelle Mech, Dorothy Cutting and Jan Slakov worked particularly hard to bring it to a successful vote. Then the unelected, Conservative majority in the Senate committed an offence to democracy of unprecedented proportions in killing the bill in the Senate – without even referring it to study in a committee. 

Bruce is also well-known to another Salt Spring resident, Robert Bateman as Bruce engaged him in the conservation battle to set aside a huge chunk of boreal wilderness at Wabakimi National Park.  Valdy and Arthur Black are also old friends, so when Bruce visits Saanich-Gulf Islands he feels right at home.  But I also feel at home in his riding after many fascinating experiences in conferences at Lakehead University.  In fact, Bruce and I first worked together in the 1980s against the use of toxic chemicals in Ontario’s forests.  
Another update relates my failed attempts, along with the other Opposition Parties in trying to remove the anti-labour provisions of the latest omnibus budget bill, C-4, efforts to remove measures so offensive to First Nations that I believe them to be unconstitutional in Bill  C-9 (the First Nations Elections Act), to amend the new copyright act to make it harder to get wiretaps on people who may have illegally photocopied material (which can easily happen by mistake), and so on. The one bill where we actually achieved a minor improvement was in Bill C-6 to implement the Cluster Munitions Convention.  It was riddled with loopholes to allow Canadian forces to participate with the US in military operations. The US is not a party to the convention, so the bill would have allowed Canadian soldiers to violate the convention and actually use cluster munitions in joint operations with the US. We (NDP, Liberal and Green amendments at committee) were able to get the word ‘using’ removed from the act, although being part of operations where the US uses the weapons remains within the act. Thanks particularly to NDP MP Paul Dewar who worked tirelessly on the issue.
I look forward to seeing as many constituents as possible over the January break at the Town Hall meetings.  Watch for the details in the next Island Tides, as well as on flyers reaching you through the mail.  (And I will be fighting for better solutions to generate revenue within Canada Post in order to have an affordable postal service!)

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Michael Chong reform bill debate continues

As Island Tides previously reported, Conservative MP Michael Chong has introduced a Private Member’s Bill  in the House of Commons which would give the membership of any party caucus the power to conduct a leadership review vote, and eliminate the provision in the Elections Act that requires that the party leader sign off on all nominations; instead the local riding association could authorize a nomination.

The Bill may have found considerable support, both in the House and with the public. Political commentator Andrew Coyne describes opposers to the bill: ‘Broadly speaking, we can divide the opposition into two groups: the Sophisticated Yawners and the Unbridled Hysterics. The first hold, variously, that the bill is unnecessary, ineffective, or unlikely; the second are united by the belief that it is actively harmful, even if they cannot agree what those harms are.’

Parliament has now recessed for the holidays and will not be back until January 27, and it is not clear when debate on Chong’s bill may occur. However, there will be plenty of time for members of all parties (and their leaders) to decide whether to support it or not…and for constituents to contact their MPs.

The current makeup of the House of Commons is Conservatives 162, NDP 100, Liberals 36, Bloc 4, Independents 4, Green Party 1, Vacant 1; total 308. It is possible that all parties will allow a ‘free vote’ on Second Reading, but amendments may well be introduced when the bill gets to committee stage.

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Appeal Court upholds Denman’s development bylaw

The Komas Bluffs appeal, has been lost in the BC Court of Appeal. The Denman Island Bylaw that regulates development along the Komas Bluff, on the Northeast tip of the island, was again challenged by Daniel and Debra Stoneman, who own property on the bluff. Their property lies within the Komas Bluff Development Permit area, which requires engineering surveys and supervision of development on the sensitive bluff area.

In 2005, the Stonemans constructed a house without meeting the conditions of their permit; in 2010 they constructed stairs down the face of the bluff, claiming the bylaw was invalid. The BC Supreme Court found that they had breached the Local Government Act. That judgement required that they remove any structures for which they do not have a permit, and pay the full costs incurred by the Denman Island Local Trust Committee. This judgement has been upheld.

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BC Ferries seeks bids on three LNG/Diesel ferries

A Request for Proposals has been issued by BCFS for three intermediate class ferries to replace Route #9‘s Queen of Nanaimo (Tsawwassen-Gulf Islands) and Route #17’s Queen of Burnaby (Comox – Powell River); both ships are nearly 50-years-old.

Five shipyards have been pre-qualified for the work. They include one local yard (Seaspan Vancouver Shipyards Co Ltd), and Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaft (Germany) where the three Super-C ferries were built. Others are Fiskerstrand (Norway), Remontawa (Poland) and Sefine (Turkey).

The vessels will be double-ended open-deck designs with capacities of 125-145 vehicles and 600 passengers and crew. They would operate on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), though they should also be capable of operation on marine diesel (MDO) to provide operational flexibility.

LNG should provide significant fuel cost savings. Details of LNG fueling strategies have not yet been disclosed by BCFerries. The three ferries represent a step towards standardization of designs across the fleet.

BCFerries has not made it clear whether the RFP is for design/build, but this seems likely. Unlike Washington State, BC has no requirement that the ferries must be locally built.

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Trust Council unanimous in criticizing ferry cuts

At its quarterly meeting in early December, Islands Trust Council request Chair Sheila Malcomson to provide a submission to the BC Coastal Ferries Community Engagement expressing Council’s deep concern about the process by which ferry service reductions are being implemented, including:
  •             Service cuts being imposed on top of fare increases above the rate of inflation that are expected to generate an additional $190 million this performance term;
  •             Elimination of sailings that are crucial to ferry users’ employment, education and other core activities;
  •             Absence of any analysis of socioeconomic impacts of service reductions;
  •             Lack of effective consultation with affected communities and of any consultation with local governments;
  •            Inadequate provision of sufficient information, time and resources to identify alternative options;
  •             Abandonment of the previous contractual requirement for BC Ferries to provide appropriate notice of schedules; and

  •             Lack of due regard for principles articulated in the Coastal Ferry Service contract, which states that ‘the coastal ferry service is integral to economic growth and development’ and in the Coastal Ferry Act which provides for considering the interests of ferry users.

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Report to PM urges trust, inclusion, reconciliation, action with aboriginals

Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford was asked to advise the Prime Minister about BC’s First Nations, who are seen to obstruct the federal government’s drive towards resource development and pipeline building. He has produced a report, and it isn’t very kind to the federal government. Eyford’s criticisms range from reminders about ‘the honour of the Crown’ to the impossibility of achieving the required consultation within the framework of the 2012 rework of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and its carefully circumscribed public hearings. And along the way he touches upon the social, educational, economic, and treaty problems of the 203 First Nations in BC.

Eyford, very carefully, proposes a different way for the federal government. His four pillars are building trust, fostering inclusion, advancing reconciliation, and taking action. In each of these categories, his recommendations illustrate his feeling that the federal government has failed to take on its responsibilities or engage with aboriginals on this level.

‘There has not,’ he says, ‘been a constructive dialogue about energy projects.’ At the forefront, he emphasizes that aboriginals have constitutionally protected rights. He feels that they will support natural resource development, but it must be environmentally sustainable, and improve the socioeconomic situation in aboriginal communities.
This, he says, requires sustained engagement and leadership on the part of the federal government, and must be linked to a broader reconciliation agenda.

In fact, this is Eyford’s 21st century redefinition of the ‘Honour of the Crown’, which has been a foundation of the negotiation of treaties with First Nations across Canada – except in BC.

Resource development companies expect government to educate and produce ‘job ready’ employees. Provincial governments expect engagement and collaboration from the federal government. First Nations themselves expect full inclusion in the economic growth that results from resource development projects within what they regard as their traditional territories. Again, federal leadership is essential.
Inevitably, this engagement would lead to consultation and the development of relationships, both structured and social, which would reconcile differences and overcome old misunderstandings. But there is a perception that recent legislative changes have eroded environmental protection; that rounds of consultation, for the many resource projects underway, have resulted in ‘process fatigue’ without tangible results; and that aboriginal concerns tend to take second place behind development priorities. Eyford says, ‘aboriginal communities remain cautious’.

As a focus of action, Eyford recommends the creation of a Crown/First Nations Energy Working Group which might adopt a regional perspective rather than the current project by project approach.

Such regional planning would go well beyond the usual land and site based environmental concerns to include economics, education, and employment, taking into account the human resources, culture, and government of each First Nation. For capable on the ground resources, strong aboriginal leadership will also be required.

Bearing in mind that the resource development projects are time-sensitive, Eyford says, ‘it is critical  for Canada to become more involved and demonstrate leadership in its relationships with Aboriginal groups, industry, and provincial governments’.

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Oil spill report has many recommendations but little traction

The federal government’s latest panel of experts studied ship-source oil spill responses on both the east and west coasts of Canada, and concluded that plans and response resources ‘should be based on risks specific to a geographic area’. The report did not deal with the increased risks introduced by proposed pipelines, and did not deal with the peculiar risks of bitumen. The report moves Canadians only marginally closer to defining the ‘world-class’ oil spill regime desired by the BC government’

Federal cabinet ministers Lisa Raitt and Joe Oliver, introducing the report in Vancouver, placed great emphasis on the importance to the economy of exporting oil by tanker, but made no funding commitments on behalf of the federal government.

Among other recommendations, the panel emphasized the need for co-ordination between Transport Canada, Environment Canada, and the Canadian Coast Guard, through a joint Incident Command System, incorporated into a joint National Contingency Plan. Coast Guard should be the On-scene Commander.

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Boyce mini-doc releases will make a feature-length documentary

Vancouver Island filmmaker Richard Boyce is making another feature length documentary film and is releasing it with a unique twist – as a series of 10-minute mini-docs on the Internet. The project takes a first hand look at British Columbia’s central coast, its natural features, the weather, the currents, the wildlife, and the people who live there.

Boyce, who lives in Errington, recently completed a kayak trip through the waters where massive tankers will make three hairpin turns, while loaded with 2 million barrels of DilBit from Alberta’s Tarsands. Boyce encountered whales and lots of marine traffic along the rugged coast along the ‘Inside Passage of British Columbia’ in The Great Bear Rainforest. Boyce commented, ‘What an amazing place, when the rain stopped and the fog lifted we encountered our first Humpback Whale sleeping in the middle of a narrow channel. Drifting with the current, it stayed there most of the day, blowing periodically. A Cruise Ship slowed down to allow us, in a tiny little kayak, to clear a channel. I can’t imagine what would happen if we were a 330 meter long supertanker.’

Boyce concluded, ‘I had to see the coast for myself because the misinformation about the tanker routes is overwhelming. I’m certain people will appreciate my first-hand video approach. See mini-video 2 at:

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BC Ferries on path to business failure

The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC), representing close to a million people living in ferry-dependent communities, backed up this claim with research which appeared to be far more thorough than that carried out by the Ministry of Transportation.

The FACC’s work questioned the provincial government’s specific proposals for ferry cost savings:

  1. they were based on 2011/12 traffic, but ridership had already dropped below those levels, and would continue to drop, which means there is already a new revenue shortfall
  2. they presented no business case, but appeared to be calculated to achieve operating savings that would justify a 4% fare increase each year
  3. there is no analysis of their economic and social costs to individuals, communities, and the province
  4. they assumed that 75% of traffic lost from cancelled runs would be transferred to other runs, but there is no analysis to support this
  5. the change to the seniors’ discount may well reduce seniors’ travel by more than the estimated 15%, and fails to take into account losses to associated vehicle fare revenue

The FACC notes that, ‘in the business world, cutting costs to stay ahead of falling revenue, without fixing the cause of the falling revenue, is a path to business failure.’ The cause of falling revenue for ferries,’ continues the FACC, ‘Is unaffordable fares and traffic decline, and chronic government underfunding, The rescue plan does not fix this. Nor does it offer the FACC or coastal residents enough data and information to let them offer alternatives to the flawed government plan.’

‘Even after the cuts’, said Brian Hollingshead of the Southern Gulf Islands, ‘The system will still be unaffordable, unsustainable, and spiraling into deeper trouble.’

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Ferries are highways in Washington State

North Vancouver Island MLA Claire Trevena, NDP critic for ferries, recently toured the Washington State Ferry system in order to compare its financing and operation with BC Ferries. She found a system that is part of the highways, with lower costs, and lower fares. BC Ferries is the second largest system in the world; WSF is the fourth largest, so the two systems have much in common.

WSF’s labour costs are significantly less than BC Ferries; crew sizes, set by the US Coast Guard, may be less than half those set by Transport Canada. WSF has many less managers than BC Ferries, but many management and accounting functions are carried out by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

On the WSF system, only Vashon Island, at the south end of Puget Sound, and the San Juan Islands are completely ferry dependent (with no alternative road access). Compare this to the ferry dependency of communities on nearly all BC Ferries routes.

WSF fares are less than half BC Ferries fares, per kilometer traveled. Fare increases of 2.5% annually are predicted. Seniors and people with a disability pay half the passenger fare, and regular fare for vehicles. Vehicles under 14-feet long are charged 70% of the regular fare. WSF experienced a 1.2% increase in traffic last year.

Trevena notes that, in Washington, a strong bipartisan ferries lobby of legislators, and a coalition of representatives of ferry-dependent communities ‘has helped to keep the importance of a reasonably priced, regular public service high on the political agenda’. She also notes that, by state law, new ferries must be built in Washington.

She says that BC Ferries, as a quasi-privatized company with profit objectives, does not enjoy the social license of Washington State ferries, where the ferries are universally accepted as part of the highways system. And, to quote Washington State Democratic Representative Larry Seaquist, ‘Simply put, a poor ferry service damages the economy.’

She recommends that, in BC, ‘we need to regain that perspective. There is no plan to turn around this failing system. The plan, it seems, is to continue on today’s course of rising fares, shrinking services, and falling ridership numbers.’

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Greens express deep concern for First Nations man threatened with deportation

The Green Party of Canada is calling on the Citizenship and Immigration department to exercise restraint and to ensure that due process is followed in the case Richard Germaine, an elderly First Nations man from the Penelakut Reserve, near Victoria, BC currently facing deportation to the U.S. 
A resident of BC for 37 years, Germaine was abruptly apprehended by Immigration officials yesterday and is being sent to Vancouver to await a deportation hearing, which could take place tomorrow.  

Germaine is of California Miwok Indian ancestry, but has no family or connections in the US, and has not lived there in almost 40 years. Germaine’s wife, Maria George, belongs to the Penelakut First Nation and is a Residential School survivor. Together, they have 4 children and 14 grandchildren. A youth mentor and teacher of traditional skills, Germaine has been described as a leader in the Penelakut Reserve community. 
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and MP for Saanich–Gulf Islands called on Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to take action on Germaine’s behalf, stating: ‘I urge Minister Alexander to personally intervene, so that Germaine and his family can be reunited and his status as a naturalized Canadian remedied.’

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Lots of Readers’ Letters


Islanders On Their Own
Dear Editor:
The main problem I see with the opposition to BC Ferries’ rising fares and proposed service cuts, is that we continue to engage the ferry corporation and the Government of BC as if this were purely an economic or (mis)-management issue. It is far from it. The way I see it the government is deliberately strangling BC Ferries to intentionally drive people out of the coastal communities and that is what we have to stop.

Ask yourself: who votes for the BC Liberals? Not us, in fact under our undemocratic first-past-the-post system hardly anyone does. 

But who opposes their reckless tarsands pipeline? Who speaks out against the decline of wild salmon and the harm of industrial fish feedlots? Speaks out against the vast clearcuts, raw log exports and the decline of domestic value-added processing? Opposes oil tankers in our coastal waters? Now that is us, and that's a real thorn in their side and more especially a thorn in the side of their corporate backers.

So when we speak out in anguished tones, imploring the Government to preserve our rural life-style, not only do they not care, they actually rub their hands in delight, because through our pleas we confirm for them that their strategies are working. 

They want to force us off the islands, out of the far-flung coastal villages. They want to deny us access to education, starve us of the culture that nurtures our communities, they want to quash local employment so the only jobs remaining are in the urban centres or in their planet-killing industrial projects.

When we describe our unique lifestyle and the value of preserving it, they don't think it's quaint, and agree. No, they despise our independence. We are the radicals, the free-thinkers, the types of people that autocratic regimes throughout history have feared, persecuted, imprisoned and worse, because we are the antithesis of what they stand for. Governments, and by extension the profiteering corporate power-brokers pulling their strings, want complacency, compliance and control. 

There is no difference between the skyrocketing ferry fares driving people off the Gulf Islands and the disappearance of family farms in the prairies, the forced relocation from Newfoundland outports or the closing of sawmills in Youbou and Tahsis. Across Canada and around the world rural populations are being systematically forced out of their communities and concentrated in cities where they can be more easily managed, watched and become apathetic consumers, indifferent to the damage being done to the environment and the billions upon billions of profits a small few are making in the process.

Premier Clark is clearly either oblivious or wilfully ignoring the economic engine that hums out here on the coast. Her Government must be blinded by either ideology or incompotence to the return on investment operating BC Ferries as an extension of the highways would make. BC has a gross domestic product of over $200 billion (2012), so the $20 million shortfall of BC Ferries is a mere 0.01% of GDP. Hardly a figure that should have a self-proclaimed business-savvy party quaking in its boots. 

If the Government wanted to find twenty million dollars they could do so in a heart beat. They give hundreds of millions away already to the oil and gas sector in taxpayer-funded subsidies. They've dismantled the compliance and enforcement branch of every ministry, losing in the process hundreds of millions of dollars in log stumpage evasion alone. They’ve written-off hundreds of millions in assets at the ferry corporation itself, and on and on it goes. 

So let's be realistic, this has nothing to do with $20 million and everything to do with trying to intentionally starve out coastal communities. And if I am mistaken about all of that, then I challenge Christy Clark and the BC Liberals to scrap the Coastal Ferry Act and prove me wrong.

But I have no faith whatsoever that the Government is going to do the right thing and put BC Ferries back under the Ministry of Transportation and fund it accordingly. This is the third round of meetings in 18 months, clearly they aren’t listening, the decision appears to have already been made. From BC Hydro to BC Parks the Government’s actions continually demonstrate a complete disregard for the public interest. So I say forget about their ‘community engagement’, it’s time for a better plan. 

The very best way, I believe, to tackle the challenges we face with our ferry system is to stop trying to appeal to the Government's economic sensibilities or even their good nature, because they don’t have either. What coastal communities need to do if they want to survive is to reimagine the future. 

We need to build resilience and independence into our way of life at a local level. We need to support our young people, our seniors and our workforce. Through co-operative initiatives we need to build small-scale manufacturing, improve community agriculture, education and social support. And yes we may very well need to work with Government to achieve this, we'll need more control over our local resources just for starters. But that's not going to happen with a sob-story, 'this isn't fair' approach, they don't care. No this needs to be tackled head-on with a revolutionary, can-do attitude, the kind of attitude that brought us all out to these remote communities in the first place.

Think it can't be done? Watch the story of a tiny community in northern Greenland, population 59. If they can do it there, we can certainly do it here.
Philip Stone, Quadra Island
Philip Stone is editor of the Discovery Islander.


Michael Chongs Private Members Bill
Dear Editor:
I am writing to voice my support for MP Chong's undertaking to democratize the House of Commons. While his private member’s bill does not resolve all the concerns I have with the way our government operates the business of governing, it is a move in the right direction.

Regardless of who is prime minister, he/she should not have the degree of influence we have witnessed of late without taking constituents’ opinions into consideration. From my perspective, the objective is to have our elected representatives respond to the needs of constituents foremost and not to issues as dictated by the PM and/or the political party the PM represents. Bottom line, I expect my Member of Parliament to represent my interests and those of the constituents living in my riding instead of being told how to vote by the PM.

Having a member of parliament in the position of having to vote the way the party (in this government it is the prime minister) dictates without so much as ‘what do my constituents think’ does not meet the definition of a representative to my way of thinking. I only get to vote for a representative (MP) and if that person is handcuffed by their leader, what form of government is that?
Is it any wonder that over 40% of the electorate no longer participates in the process? Oh, to live in a country that is truly democratic.
Dave Lee, Tsawwassen

Remembering Louis Riel
Dear Editor:
Readers usually see me on Island Tides pages as my business, Shoreline Design. I am also a singer/songwriter and musician (  Recently I obtained my Metis status and was very excited to find out what bloodlines flow through my veins.  Looking into my family history has been very revealing and an awakening experience.    

This whole process has opened my eyes to the terrible injustices perpetrated against the Metis people and their leader Louis Riel. Our school system teaches our children history that is false and the people of Canada have a distorted and biased view of Louis Riel, which is inexcusable and needs to be rectified.  I, on the other hand, have been made acutely aware of this injustice and am very proud to have any connection to this great and honorable man.

I am looking forward to writing and recording a conceptual CD/Video on the controversial life and death of Louis Riel.  This courageous man needs to be exonerated so that all Canadians can celebrate his accomplishments and place him where he belongs, with pride and in a place of honor.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, I draw parallels between these two great men, both accused of treason, both sacrificing their lives for the betterment of humankind.
I am not asking for your financial support, although that would be most appreciated, I am asking for your social media support to reach out and shed as much light as we can on this very important issue. Below is a link to my Indiegogo Campaign ‘Hanging Heroes’ please help to exonerate Louis Riel:
Peter Christenson, Pender Island

Getting It Right From The Beginning
Dear Editor:
At the root of the Senate expense scandal is a view held by many Canadians that there are double standards at work—and indeed there are. What captures the headlines are tales of pampered Senators and their allegedly inflated draws on the public purse, serious charges that deserve to be fully investigated and—if warranted—prosecuted.

But there are other double standards in this sordid affair that are less obvious. Two stand out. One, how is it that Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin’s putative residences satisfy Constitutional requirements but not Senate Rules? 
Two, why it is acceptable to bypass fair process requirements in the appointment of senators, yet not in the removal of senators?

Regarding the rules on residency, according to our Constitution a Senator is ‘summoned by the Governor-General’ to the Senate on the ‘advice’ of the Prime Minister. Four ‘divisions’ of Canada—Ontario, Quebec, the Maritime Provinces and the Westeren Provinces—are given a set number of Senate seats to ensure that there is some semblance of regional representation in the upper house, and to provide some counter balance to what may be a geographically lopsided distribution of MPs in the House of Commons.  So far, so good. 

Section 23 of the Constitution Act of 1867 sets out the qualifications of a Senator, among them being that a Senator “shall be resident in the Province for which he is appointed’ and that a Senator own land in the province from which he is appointed.

When our Prime Minister advised the Governor-General to summon as Senators, Ms Wallin from Saskatchewan and Mr Duffy from PEI, he was essentially attesting that they were qualified and able to represent those regions.  That is, that they met the requirements of s. 23 of the Constitution regarding their residency.  Presumably, this occurred after a sober and legitimate consideration of those individuals’ ability to meet the express and implied Constitutional requirements for residency. Given that they were appointed, it is fair to conclude that the PM considered that they did meet those requirements. 

How is it then that for the purposes of satisfying the requirements under our Constitution, the highest law of the land, those Senators received a passing grade, yet, for the purposes of their expense accounts, under a presumably subordinate regime, the Senate Rules, they do not?
Isn’t the point of Senate appointments to meaningfully meet the purposes of representational distribution from across Canada? What did the PM have in mind when he accepted their residential bona fides as Senators representing Saskatchewan and PEI?  Was it that for some purposes they should be treated as if they were resident from those provinces but when it came to other issues, they should not?  Isn’t the relevant question whether the original appointment itself was in proper compliance with the residency requirements under our Constitution? 

Why is it that their residency is sufficient for the purposes of meeting the Constitution’s residency requirements but not for the purposes of claiming travel and living expenses based thereon? If there is a question about the abuse of residency requirements, the legitimacy of their original appointments should be just as closely scrutinized as their expense accounts.

The second point concerns the process by which Senators are appointed.  Senators are ‘summoned,’ not hired. So what is the employment status of a Senator?  When Senators Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau were resisting their expulsions from the Senate they, seemed to be seeking the protections which apply to employees. Is that fair?

Senate seats are not attained through a merit-based process that applies to other public sector positions. There is no advertisement for the position, no striking of a hiring committee comprised of interested and affected stakeholders, no standardized selection criteria applicable to all persons interested in the position and no interview process available to all qualified candidates.  The process is not open, transparent and competitive, and there is no appeal of the decision available. 

In a very real sense, Senators are spared the burden of having to go through an open and transparent application, interview and hiring process. As anyone who has applied for a job recently knows, considerable energy and resources are required to apply for jobs.  Senators do not have to go through this process. They get a pass when it comes to going through bureaucratic hoops in order to get their jobs – their nice salary, benefits, perks, and of course their expense accounts.

Surely, they also understand they got the job because they have pleased the current regime in some manner.  So the question is, is it right that these Senators are content to bypass the formalities of a fair process when it comes to obtaining their positions, yet insist on fair process when it comes to potentially losing their positions? 

Of course employees should be treated fairly and be afforded all the rights of a proper process when being disciplined and or dismissed.  This includes the right of an impartial and full investigation when allegations are made about their behaviour,   and the right not to be sanctioned without a full and fair process.  If we are to extend these protections to Senators who are facing discipline, shouldn’t we also extend fair process requirements to Senate appointments in the first place?  Let’s have due process at both ends of this process, when Senators first get their jobs and when they face the possibility of losing them.

Finally, there is something troubling when it comes to Senators Duffy and Wallin having sought leniency with regard to sanctions, so as not to lose their health benefits. How many Canadians have lost their jobs, unfairly and not, and have faced the loss of medical benefits for their families and themselves? How many have been in less fortunate circumstances than the Senators?  The Senators’ staff come immediately to mind; those individuals lost their positions summarily and did not receive continued medical benefits.  If we are inclined to accede to these requests, and I see the merit of doing so, let’s ensure that the same consideration is made available to all Canadian workers. 

It seems only fair to ask for a single standard to apply to all of us.
Anita Braha, Galiano Island

Getting Active
Dear Editor.
I want to congratulate you on the excellent articles in this issue of your newspaper.  It is overwhelming to see the monster we are facing when it comes to climate change and fossil fuels: both federal and provincial governments are now in league, shutting down the voices and expertise of their own scientists, and changing the rules to effectively shut down public input.  We need to get a lot more organized and a lot noisier in a big hurry!
Maureen Karagianis, Gabriola

Citizens, Taxpayers, Consumers, Bureaucrats
Dear Editor:
Permit me to gently correct a few of the points in a response  from one of my constituents, ‘Proud Taxpayer, Helene Narayana.’ Island Iides, November 7, 2013.  The letter built on the discussion of the my use of the terms ‘consumer’ and ‘taxpayer,’ instead of ‘citizen’. 

My objection is certainly not that anyone should resent paying taxes. I commend Ms Narayana for being a ‘proud taxpayer’.  So should we all be.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out more than a century ago, ‘Taxes are the price of a civilized society.’

Both the term ‘consumer’ and ‘taxpayer’ are primarily transactional. They are not labels that imply an empowered role in shaping decisions about how we wish our taxes to be directed.

Those who oppose taxes as a generalized rejection of the role of the public sphere in our lives, use the term to suggest that our pockets are being picked. The issues are framed to encourage an attitude of resentment, instead of civic responsibility. The use of the term ‘citizen’, in contrast, is empowering and a reminder that we must be fully engaged in our society if we want a liveable world for our children and theirs.

In response to another point in Hélène’s letter about my rôle in the 1980s: I was never an advisor to Prime Minister Mulroney, nor was I ever a member of the Progressive Conservative Party.  I was very grateful for the chance to advance positive environmental decisions as Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Environment from 1986-88. 

In that time, we completed five new national parks, including Gwaii Haanas, negotiated agreements with the seven eastern provinces and then, with the United States, to reduce the pollution that caused acid rain by 50%, achieved the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer, the clean-up of the Great Lakes (which needs to be renewed), passed the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, set up the National Round Table for Environment and Economy, and organized the first global conference on climate change, among dozens of other achievements.

However, in 1988, I resigned on principle when the minister approved permits for two dams in Saskatchewan without any environmental assessment. In the 1988 election, this led to an odd distinction. I was the only person mentioned in the televised leaders debate—other than candidates—when Brian Mulroney attacked me by name in an effort to deflect a point made by Ed Broadbent. As you can see, the idea that I was working for Mulroney, blind to the threat of Reagan and Thatcher’s agenda, is incorrect. 
I have been aware and paying attention for a very long time.
Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands

I Love my Smart Meter
Dear Editor:
Well I don’t exactly go out and hug it every day, but I do read it once a week, because unlike the old ‘steam driven’ dials it is so easy to read. By subtracting the latest reading from the previous one and dividing by the number of days between readings I know exactly how many kWh of electricity I am using per day, and can compare with the same period the year before (yes I keep my bills for one year). Oxford University in England did a survey and proved that consumers who kept track of there utility usage lowered their consumption any where from 5% to 15% and in our home we have been able to exceed that.  

Let me explain how we’ve accomplished this: first of all the computer(s), no more turning it/them on in the morning and running until bedtime, it/they are only switched on when needed.

Light bulbs: we don’t have an incandescent light bulb left in the house, whoops I lie, we’ve still got one in the stove and one in the fridge.  The rest are all LED’s or some CFLs; the LEDs were bought in April  when BC Hydro has significant rebates on them, ( as they do every April) taking as much as $8.00 off. Our thermostat for our underfloor electrical heating is programmable so we reduce the heat in the evening (when we light the wood stove) and it is set to reach our desired daytime heat setting by 7am.

We also have a fax machine that we use about four or five times a year, as a result I put a switch on it so that instead of constantly being alive it is only on when needed. We’ve changed our programmable light timer from an electro mechanical to a digital one, so there is another item that is not constantly running.

Ever counted how many radios there are in your house? Well, we had seven including our stereo and bedside alarms, so we recycled one and put switchable plugs on two.

I have heard complaints about a considerable increase in hydro bills since the introduction of smart meters and noticed that BC Hydro’s meter readings were quite a bit  higher than the reading on my own meter, but in looking at the fine print on my bills, I noticed that they were an ‘estimate', obviously based on last year. In phoning BC Hydro about this, they asked me what my reading was and the day that I took it and they adjusted my bill accordingly. They also suggested that at the next estimated billing time I could read my own meter, send in the reading with the serial number of the meter via E-mail and they would accept that reading. I did that on the 15th October, result, the lowest bill for August/October in 10 years at $63.00.
We also joined BC Hydro’s Power Smart Program whereby if we can reduce our power consumption by 10% for a year we will get a $75.00 rebate, and so far we have reduced it by 17%. My suggestion re Smart Meters then, is rather than complain about them, use them as a tool to reduce your electrical consumption.

Perhaps one of the reasons I am enjoying my smart meter is that possibly my brain is already fried from all these electrical transmissions, after all I do tend to stand in front of the microwave for a minute while I warm up my morning coffee at lunch time. I also have two of those portable phones, you know, the ones you can take from room to room with you and don’t work when the power’s out. When using that phone I am holding a radio transmitter 2cm from my brain, wow, one thirty minute phone call and my brain has absorbed as many electrical radio waves as a smart meter will produce in my lifetime.

One more item, when we travel to the mainland about once a month, we prefer to go via Swartz Bay and take the larger Route One ferry across. These larger ferries were the first to be WI FI enabled from bow to stern so that passengers can use their laptops, tablets and smart phones while traveling, my goodness if that isn’t enough to make one want to put on their tinfoil helmet, but then that would be a detriment to enjoying my meal onboard.          

Coming from the airline industry as I did, I know that it was in the late ’80s early ’90s that  commercial aircraft were switching from the old steam-driven’ dial-type analog instruments to digital instrument technology, because, just like smart meters they were more easily read, more reliable and easier to maintain; BC Hydro is following the same strategy of getting into the 21st Century only 20-plus years later.

One last item re privacy, anyone who uses a computer to access the internet, be aware that those on the internet know far more about you and your habits than BC Hydro ever will.

Make your smart meter work for you as we have done and try challenging a neighbor to see who can reduce their electrical usage the most. Yes, we are enjoying our Smart Meter.
Tony Merry, Pender Island

Real Port Hearings Needed
Dear Editor:
Port Metro Vancouver wants to significantly increase shipments of US thermal coal via open rail cars to Surrey-Fraser Docks and via open barges to Texada Island for open storage awaiting transshipment overseas. The human health, safety and environmental risks enroute are substantial: from inhalation of coal dust and diesel particulate, to deposition of coal dust on farmland and into our waters to foul beaches, contaminate shellfish and more.

On November 18, Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) released a flawed environmental study by SNC Lavalin claiming the proposed coal terminal would ‘not likely cause significant adverse effects to the environment or human health’.   The study has been roundly criticized for using incorrect and out-of-date statistics, inadequate sampling data, barely considering human health issues and for failing to deal with any considerations from the mouth of the Fraser to Texada Island. 

According to Wikipedia SNC Lavalin and its affiliates represented 115 of the 117 Canadian companies, almost half of the 250 companies blacklisted from bidding on World Bank’s global projects due to corrupt practices.  SNC Lavalin is an engineering firm who designs major projects such as, you guessed it, port facilities!

PMV is in a conflict of interest relying on a flawed study by a company with the potential to gain from designing the very facility from which PMV itself stands to profit. PMV has allowed just 30 days for public commentary but are not required to publish comments received.

Real Port Hearings is a public website which provides information and allows the public to send comments to PMV.  Your comments will be automatically copied to other responsible authorities and create an open public record for all to see. Please visit to have your say and see what others are saying about an important issue which could affect us for decades.
Jef Keighley, Halfmoon Bay


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