The provincial government has said that it’s not contemplating a return to 20-hour service on the Francois Lake ferry, even as campaigners prepare to send their petition and letters of support for the cause to the capital.
“The ministry is not considering a return to a 20-hour day,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
The government reasserted its position that the current schedule “balances the cost of delivering the service with the transportation needs of the community and industry in the area.”
The statement also noted that the ferry service is available outside of operating hours for emergency services within 30 minutes, including police, ambulances and firefighters.
The annual operating budget of the ferry — one of 14 inland ferry routes in B.C., all of them free to use — is $4 million, according to the ministry.
Asked how much the additional service would cost, a spokesperson said that the government didn’t know.
“The ministry has not costed additional hours for the service, as the ministry is not considering a return to a 20-hour day,” a spokesperson said in an email to the Lakes District News, adding that the current service was adequate.
The government statement said the schedule was shortened in 2002. But a ministry spokesperson told the Lakes District News the government couldn’t provide a rationale for why the change occurred at that time, since “there’s probably no one here who’s from that administration.”
Mike Robertson, one of the organizers of the campaign for extended service, responded defiantly to the news.
“This means nothing,” he said in an email. “You’ve never seen Southsiders at work! Noes inspire us!”
He noted that the campaigners haven’t yet sent in their petition.
Supporters of the push for extended service have said the current timetable — starting at 5:30 a.m. from the Southside, with its final sailing from the Northside at 11 p.m. — limits their economic, social and cultural opportunities.
Under the proposed timetable, operations would start at 5 a.m. and shut down at 1 a.m. daily, with departures on the hour and half-hour, instead of the more oddly times schedule currently in place. The exception to this more regular revised schedule would be sailings timed to correspond with school buses.
Catherine Van Tine Marcinek, a Southside resident and campaigner for the extended service, said on May 4 that organizers plan to send their petition and letters of support to the government in the coming weeks.
Campaigners have said the petition has garnered pages of signatures and many letters of support, including from the Village of Burns Lake. Other supporters include Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, who has offered to present the petition in the provincial legislature.