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Ferry cutbacks may spark exodus, survey finds

GABRIOLA — Gabriola Island residents say there could be severe economic fallout if ferry service reductions go ahead as planned.

GABRIOLA — Gabriola Island residents say there could be severe economic fallout if ferry service reductions go ahead as planned.

In mid-December, a survey of more than 900 residents, including businesses, conducted by representatives from Gabriola Island’s Transportation Advisory Commission and Ferry Advisory Committee found the community faced a potential loss of $5.4 million in on-island revenue, and 176 jobs. According to the survey, 46 per cent of those polled said they were “likely” or “most likely” to move off-island if the cuts — including Gabriola’s two last daily round trips — went ahead on April 1.

Nanaimo Port Theatre general manager Bruce Halliday said he is already planning to move from Gabriola. “The bottom line is that there would be numerous times per month where I would need to be here until the end of a show and that would be impossible, with the proposed changes,” said Halliday. “And I’m not alone, that’s for sure.”

Halliday, who has lived on Gabriola for 16 years, estimates Gabriolans buy about $20,000 worth of tickets from the Port each year.

Whether service cuts will affect property values still remains to be seen. The overall decrease for Gabriola property values is expected to be six per cent this year. The figures are not yet impacted by the ferry cutbacks, but may be in 2015, said

Nanaimo branch deputy assessor Bill Dawson in an interview with the Gabriola Sounder last week.

Final decisions on service reductions will be made by April.