The Flying Shingle
Guest Editorial
The Duke Point question
by Miranda Holmes
Monday, November 25, 2013

At the root of this cost-cutting exercise is the stated need for BC Ferries to slice $18.9 million (reduced from $30 million, following the provincial election) from its operating costs by 2016.
Of this $18.9 million, BC Ferries has made it clear that 74 per cent of savings – $14 million – must come from so-called minor routes in the Georgia Strait and the north. These are services to islands and small communities which rely on ferries for major medical treatment, for students, and for food and other supplies.
In the last financial year, the Duke Point terminal operated at a loss of $25 million (down from $30 million the previous year). The terminal was closed for repairs for four and a half months in December 2011, with sailings from Tswwassen diverted to the Departure Bay terminal.
When the seamlessness of this diversion was highlighted and questions raised about the cost-savings which could be made by closing Duke Point completely, BC Ferries spokesman Mark Stefanson told the Nanaimo News Bulletin: “Our staff in Nanaimo has done an outstanding job of being able to accommodate both routes operating out of Departure Bay for this period of time. It’s a blessing this happened in the winter time and the low point of our season. Once we start moving into the busy summer season, it’s our view there is no way both routes could operate out of Departure Bay without some major challenges.”
Assuming this is true, it suggests that Duke Point is surplus to requirement for nine months a year. What would be the cost savings of operating the terminal on a seasonal basis from, say, Victoria Day to Labour Day? BC Ferries refuses to say.
The day after the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MoTI) announced its proposed service cuts, John Hodgkins, along with other members of the various Ferry Advisory Committees, met with Ministry staff.
As he explained to the Shingle, when the issue of closing Duke Point was raised, the FACs were told, in no uncertain terms, that any changes to major routes was “a discussion for another time,” to be held after the requisite cuts to minor route services had been made.
In what world does this make sense?
On Dec. 10, representatives of MoTI and BC Ferries will be at the Haven from 5 pm to 8 pm for an open house and question and answer session.
Whatever the question is, the answer should be: Shut Duke Point and then come and talk to ferry-dependent communities about cutting vital services.
Days left this term in which to complete the OCP review: 355

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