The campaign for extended ferry service across Francois Lake is building steam, with one organizer saying a petition for longer sailing hours has garnered hundreds of signatures. The focus of the campaign is now on collecting letters of support.
At a meeting planned for April 19 at the Cheslatta Carrier Nation boardroom, everyone in attendance will be asked to wield their pens for the letter-writing campaign, said organizer Catherine Van Tine Marcinek.
“Whoever comes through the door, we’re going to ask them to write a letter of support,” she said, adding that the letters can be formal or informal, typed or written by hand.
Those letters will be forwarded to the provincial transportation ministry, along with a petition that has garnered an estimated 300-500 signatures so far, according to Van Tine Marcinek. At Grassy Plains alone, signatures already fill about seven pages, she said.
She added that opposition to the idea has been practically non-existent — with only one individual rumored to be against the longer service hours.
“Their reason was it was going to bring the riffraff to the Southside,” said Van Tine Marcinek, who lives in the area. “To me that’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Supporters want crossings from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. daily, with crews shutting down operations at 1 a.m. on the Southbank dock — a 20-hour schedule.
The total number of sailings wouldn’t change — they would just be paced out across a longer period of time, meaning that the carbon footprint wouldn’t increase, Van Tine Marcinek said.
The current schedule begins at 5:30 a.m. with a sailing from the Southside and ends with an 11:00 p.m. departure from the north.
The proposed schedule would also have departures on the hour and the half-hour. Supporters say that kind of schedule would be easier to keep track of than the current timetable, which has sailings at odd times, such as a 4:35 p.m departure from the Northside.
However, the proposed timetable would maintain odd sailing times that are meant to accommodate the school bus schedule: 3:45 p.m. from the Northside and 4:10 from the Southside.
Organizers have said the changes would restore a previous schedule that offered better economic, cultural and recreational opportunities to Southside residents. The provincial ministry of transport has stated that current operating hours balance delivery costs with the needs of residents.
The increased hours wouldn’t dramatically increase operating costs, according to Ron Van Tine — marine manager at WaterBridge, the company that operates the Francois Lake link — though he couldn’t immediately indicate how much that increase would be.
The difference in expense would stem primarily from the hiring of two more employees, he said.