BC Ferries vessel. (Mike Patterson, Vista Radio staff)
There is an obvious disconnect between the decisions being made at Transport Canada and what is happening on the ground.
That’s what North Island-Powell River MP, Rachel Blaney, is saying about Transport Canada’s decision to ban ferry passengers from staying on lower car decks.
Blaney exchanged letters with federal transportation minister, Marc Garneau, on the topic.
“A government-knows-best attitude from Transport Canada in Ottawa is obviously not inspiring confidence here on the west coast,” wrote Blaney.
Blaney is objecting to the Ministry’s decision to rescind an exception that allowed passengers to remain in their vehicles on several routes, including the Powell River-Comox ferry, in order to reduce contact during the COVID pandemic.
She said with the Sept. 30th deadline looming, many coastal residents who rely on the ferries as well as workers, community leaders and the BC Government “have raised concerns.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic will not be over by Sept. 30,” wrote Blaney. “The risk of transmission in enclosed spaces, such as ferry passenger decks on busy sailings, remains high.”
Minister Garneau responded to the letter on Monday suggesting that “wearing a face mask, washing your hands regularly, and physical distancing” were enough to mitigate the risk of COVID transmission while on board, and that passengers can ask to be loaded onto partially enclosed decks instead.
Blaney said she appreciates the minister responding so quickly to the issue, but he did not address the key questions.
“Which is, how was this decision made, what was the consultation process… we’ve heard from constituents across the riding who are very concerned about having to travel without being able to stay in their cars, and that is, during COVID, one of the biggest issues.”
In her response today, Blaney asked again for the data or risk-assessment that supported the decision.
She also asked what measures Transport Canada is taking to ensure the safety of passengers and of BC Ferries workers who have been bearing the brunt of passenger’s frustration.
“The other part that really concerns me is the fact that we have amazing ferry workers across the island and across B.C., who are having to implement this change with little or no support,” Blaney said. “The workers on the front lines on BC Ferries are having to deal with people who are frustrated and concerned and I don’t think that’s very fair either.”