EDITORIAL: Bridges and ferries

What's next, a movement calling for a fixed link between French Creek and Lasqueti Island?

When you live on an island in the Pacific, is it reasonable to expect the same services, prices and access to provincial/national road networks as those who live in North America proper?

This week, the provincial government said an engineering report shows a fixed link — a bridge — between Nanaimo and Gabriola Island is not financially feasible. According to the province, the bridge would cost $258 million to $520 million, depending on the chosen route. The province set aside $200,000 for the feasibility study.

Petitions asking Gabriola residents about a bridge to Vancouver Island were presented to the Legislature in 2014. One had 700 signatures in favour, another 3,400 against. The approximate population of Gabriola is 4,000.

It seems pretty clear the vast majority of Gabriolians do not want a fixed link to Nanaimo. We’d suggest these people get it.

Every year or so, talk surfaces about a possible fixed link between Victoria and the Lower Mainland, island hopping until it has to cross 20 km of waters that are as much as 400 metres deep. For comparison purposes, it cost $1 billion in mid-1990s money to build the 13 km Confederation Bridge linking PEI to New Brunswick.

What’s next, a bridge to Denman Island from Buckley Bay? How about linking Campbell River with Quadra Island? That’s only a quick kayak away. A bridge from French Creek to Lasqueti?

The issues surrounding B.C. Ferries complicate the matter, of course. It gets more expensive every year to island hop or get to the Lower Mainland. And there are constant cuts to the frequency of sailings.

While we continue to believe ferries, for certain routes, should be treated as extensions of the Trans Canada Highway and get more federal government funding, the notion that more and more service should be provided for less and less money is absurd.

We live in arguably the most beautiful place in the country. We do not face the winters the vast majority of Canadians face every year. There are costs associated with those luxuries, trade-offs if you will. Expecting to pay a similar price for food and gasoline as people in, say, Abbotsford, is not logical. We need to choose our battles and create better strategies. Here are two: we need to put more pressure on the federal government to support the big hops between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island; and we need to develop more locally-grown food operations.

— Editorial by John Harding

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