As a Southsider for over 40 years, I’ve come to appreciate deeply the social, public safety and economic significance the Francois Lake ferry has to our community and to our region.
The Cheslatta Carrier Nation, as one of the largest employers in the area relies entirely on the ferry for its businesses, employees, shipping and receiving, raw materials, fuel and supplies, not to mention the social and personal support the ferry provides. Other Southside businesses, operations and households will likely confirm the same.
First of all, I want to acknowledge the fact that there are wage and other issues between the union members and the contractor that owns the ferry. I support an open and progressive process that can address these issues in an expeditious and fair way that will achieve acceptable results without affecting the overall safety or livelihoods of Southsiders. We depend on the ferry crew, who are long time residents, friends and relations, and who are dedicated and responsible for maintaining and coordinating the scheduled ferry service that we base our business and personal lives on.
If labour action were to take place, Southsiders would have two alternative routes to our regular service centre of Burns Lake, currently 25 kilometres from the Southbank landing.
East – Binta Forest Service Road (FSR) network. One hundred and fifty-five km, two hours and 35 minutes to Burns Lake. Route: Poorly marked, radio assisted route, a series of seasonal FSRs heavily used by active logging vehicles. Cars or single occupant vehicles are not recommended. Not safe for travel especially at night. Mostly no cell or internet service. Absolutely not a safe, dependable or viable route.
West – Ootsa/Nadina and Colleymount network. One hundred and fifty-nine km, two hours and 27 minutes to Burns Lake. Route: predominately seasonal gravel roads heavily used by active logging vehicles. Colleymount Road is unsafe. Not recommended for light vehicles or single drivers. No cell or internet service for the majority of the route. Absolutely not a safe, dependable or viable route.
In closing, it is only common sense to realize that if you burn your only bridge, your community will wither and die. We need a legislated guarantee that our bridge is designated an essential service and to allow us Southsiders to continue to do our part in contributing to the social and economic fabric of British Columbia. This is our essential service we are happy to perform, as always, each and every day.
Mike M. Robertson