Our Ferry Matters to the Future of our Lake Communities!

Previously, the ferry operated from Kootenay Bay terminal starting at 5:40 am every morning until 1:10 am every evening.

Why Should You Want Additional Sailings?

East Shore Community

  • • More hours with access to the emergency medical care that Nelson provides us.
  • • Ability to schedule early tests and medical appointments in Trail (essential when fasting).
  • • Earlier hours for people to get to work, more access to employment.
  • • Our community has grown, we need more access to services.
  • • College students could commute from home instead of having to find accommodation in Nelson.
  • • People could attend dinners, shows, concerts, kids’ performances, classes, meetings, educational opportunities, etc., in Nelson or Kaslo without leaving early.

Ferry Crew Retention

  • • The biggest issue for the crew is the schedule. Currently, they work six on and three off. This has a negative impact on quality of life. Working longer shifts daily would allow options for day-to-day service (for example, seven on, seven off).
  • • The crew and the community think seven on and seven off is the best and are working together to figure out a draft recommended schedule template.
  • • More options for shared staff housing
  • • More recruitment options.
  • • Mike Fenton says BCGEU is in full support and has voiced that they have been trying for years to get day-for-day service implemented.

Western Pacific Marine

  • • More secure workforce.
  • • Easier to recruit, even if just temporary workers.
  • • There are currently morale issues with the crews. This would be a significant first step in turning that around.
  • • Work towards positioning the Kootenay Lake Ferry Systems and WPM as one of the best places to work long-term in the Kootenays. Look for creative ways to attract local workers. The community and crew would support WPM in this 3-year plan.
  • • The new electric/diesel ferry will get much publicity and be showcased as a reliable alternate route to Hwy3. WPM must have suitable systems and, most importantly, an educated and happy crew to allow for and encourage increased travel.
  • • The province would cover extra costs for the extended service.
  • • WPM would be a positive model for other corporations on employee retention and recruitment.

Provincial Government

  • • Increased services
  • • Success story of working with the people, providing guidance and knowledge with the entire process to increase services.
  • • Have a secure labour system to run the ferry, positively setting the first step to the future for many years.
  • • Once the new ferry is running, be able to showcase the electric capabilities of the vessel without the fear of unreliable service (without enough crew, one of the vessels may not be able to operate)
  • • Ferry traffic is expected to increase with the new vessel.

When MLA Brittny Anderson met with our working group, she advised us to treat the Extended Ferry Service application urgently. And it is urgent. We are already losing shifts and sailings due to a lack of crew (Saturday, Aug 26, 2023, for a recent example). So, we think the grassroots, immediate approach to this single issue is essential. As the former group reestablishes, further issues (perhaps the bathrooms, for example?) can be stewarded with less urgency.

Apparently, from the Gas Tax that pays for the ferries, there are excess funds already in this current budget that would cover the increase in labour costs (currently, this surplus usually gets transferred into general revenue). The money spent for the present crews to work 2100 + hours instead of the contracted 1800 hours would also be offset. Recruiting another crew would take some time, but we think it could be ready to implement at the Union contract in April 2024. WPM and the Union believe this is doable. And even if it does have to be voted on in the 2024 Budget, the September guideline allows time for that.

We plan to get a package together for the beginning of September to ask the provincial government to extend the hours of our ferry service. We will include all the letters and petitions and present them publicly positively, highlighting everybody working together and the benefits to all. MLA Anderson has agreed to attend, and we are hopeful the Minister of Transportation can also come.

How Can You Help?