Marine highway is all wet

This week's editorial looks at the importance of our local ferry system.

An attempted excursion from Port McNeill to Sointula for the annual Winterfestival Saturday was illustrative of our reliance on the ferry system.

With nearly a dozen people remaining in the walk-up line and a quartet of vehicles queued at the drive-up window for the 10:25 a.m. sailing, the beleaguered woman staffing the ticket booth announced the Quadra Queen II had reached its capacity of 141 riders.

The next three people at the walk-up window, left stranded until the next sailing, were an off-duty BC Ferries employee, a North Island Gazette reporter and the region’s pre-eminent whale and marine wildlife researcher and promoter, who was scheduled to staff a table at the Winterfest Craft Fair.

This example is not meant as a self-serving rant. The Gazette eventually made it to Winterfest and Jackie Hildering arrived on the next ferry to share her books and calendars with Winterfestival shoppers.

Rather, it is to point out the critical link the coastal ferry system provides to residents of not only Vancouver Island, but the smaller islands and a variety of Mainland communities.

And coastal ferries are important to coastal residents for more than a casual connection.

Whether for work, school, entertainment, critical medical appointments or tourism, the ferry system has historically offered the most reliable, affordable and regular transportation option to residents who live away from the B.C. highway system.

But it’s getting less affordable each year, and now comes BC Ferries making cuts to service — though, thankfully, the Tri-Island route was spared. This time.

Still, we find ourselves in agreement with those who maintain the ferries should be recognized — and funded — as part of the provincial highway system.