Our Ferry Matters community group “thrilled and relieved”
Dec. 3, 2019, Kootenay Bay, BC: The grassroots Our Ferry Matters group that has advocated for safe, reliable and sustainable ferry service on Kootenay Lake for months is excited that an official agreement has been reached in the labour dispute between Western Pacific Marine and BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU).
“Our members are thrilled and relieved to know that we now have stability for the long-term on this essential transportation route between Balfour and Kootenay Bay,” says Megan Rokeby-Thomas, an initiator of Our Ferry Matters and owner of Ladybug Coffee by the Kootenay Bay ferry terminal. “Thank you to everyone involved!”
“We brought together people from all areas and interests around the lake through our Unity Sailings, website and Facebook communication, media presence and ongoing monitoring and discussions — all encouraging speedy resolution. We thank the community for all its support and efforts to provide a strong neutral voice during this labour dispute!” Megan adds. Our Ferry Matters included support from many members of the East Shore community, the Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Balfour & District Business & Historic Association as well as Chambers in Creston, Kaslo, Nelson, Castlegar, the International Selkirk Loop, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism and many others.
Disruption of ferry service throughout the summer had significant negative effects on local businesses as well as citizens with concerns about essential access to healthcare and education services. “With this happy news, we can focus our efforts on making sure that everyone knows the ferry is running back on regular schedule. This ferry – the longest free ferry in the world – is a significant attraction for people to the area. We’ll be taking steps to make up for the losses incurred because of the uncertainty of the labour dispute this year,” notes Janet Wallace, treasurer of the KL Chamber of Commerce and owner of Barefoot Handweaving, one of the Artisans of Crawford Bay.
Our Ferry Matters is advocating for the speedy creation of a Kootenay Lake Ferry Advisory Committee as a mechanism for ensuring community input to the ferry operations. The Committee is stipulated in the province’s past contract with Western Pacific Marine but was not active.