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Hornby Islanders plead case for new ferry to address ‘pathetically inadequate’ service

2,600 people sign petition for improved service for Island with 1,000 year-round residents
A partially filled ferry departs for Hornby Island, leaving vehicles behind at Denman’s Gravelly Bay terminal. File photo

Residents of Hornby Island are calling for a bigger, newer ferry to alleviate lineups and other issues that have worsened since the Kahloke was downgraded last November.

Along with road-blocking ferry lineups, Karen Ross of the Hornby Island Community Economic Enhancement Corporation said there is “pathetically inadequate service in the peak season and much of the shoulder season,” and a negative impact on the cost of living for Hornby residents.

The situation has reached a critical stage, she added. If BC Ferries fails to make immediate changes, the Hornby ferry route will be bogged down in the next four-year service contract.

Over the summer, more than 2,600 people signed petitions for improved ferry service for Hornby.

“Strong numbers for an island population of 1,000,” Ross said.

Daniel Arbour, Area A director of the Comox Valley Regional District, notes “continued dysfunctionality” among too many governing bodies operating a system of boats. He said there’s been an “erosion of trust” regarding broken promises from BC Ferries.

“It’s a systemic issue with the Hornby and Denman ferries,” said Arbour, who’s worst run last summer was 5 1/2 hours from Hornby to Buckley Bay. “They’re under-sized.”

He said BC Ferries is considering extending the deck of the Baynes Sound Connector cable ferry, but many people think the corporation should bring back a normal vessel. The Hornby ferry, downgraded for weight capacity, doesn’t cut it for three seasons of the year, Arbour added.

“What’s upsetting to residents is Hornby and Denman, according to the stats, has been the worst performing run for overloads for quite some time in the whole system, and meanwhile BC Ferries is putting double runs in Quadra and Gabriola Island. So everybody else is getting looked after…We don’t understand why we keep getting the short end of the straw in the system.”

READ: Denman residents frustrated with winter ferry schedule

Arbour said the Quinsam and Quinitsa (cable ferry predecessor) are available but for some reason are not being used for Denman and Hornby.

BC Ferries presented its Performance Term Six Submission (PT6) to the BC Ferries Commissioner at the end of September.

It includes many needed service enhancements for customers, including new vessels and near-term service enhancements to increase capacity on some inter-island routes, including Denman – Hornby. BC Ferries Commissioner Eva Hage will make her final determination on the PT6 price caps by Sept. 30, 2023.

“BC Ferries is independent from government, and is responsible for its procurement of new vessels and deployment of its fleet to best serve the traveling public as well as day-to-day operations,” the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) said in a statement.

Arbour suggests to dismantle the corporation, return small runs for public benefit to MOTI, and leave big run for BC Ferries.

“I think they have failed over the years to be a community service,” he said. “They have run as a corporation, looking after the bottom line and always negotiating with the government. So why don’t we have the government operate it as a service for the benefit of coastal communities?”

The public can visit to view the PT6 and offer feedback.

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