BC Ferries president and chief executive officer Mark Collins’ recent commitment to a trial of direct ferry service between Texada Island and Comox may be the most significant Texada happening since the closure of Texada Mines in 1976.
Texada has become a retirement island. Texada’s population has declined by roughly seven per cent since 1996. The under-45 population has decreased by roughly 50 per cent since 2001, while the number over 65 has more than doubled.
The 2016 census shows that more than 60 per cent of Texada’s population is over 55.
What does all of this have to do with going to Comox?
Our aging population requires more access to medical specialists and services located on Vancouver Island. The direct sailing proposal put before BC Ferries last May would see up to a five-hour reduction in the length of our travel day.
The end result is that it will make it easier for our seniors to remain in their homes on Texada, as well as making Texada an even more desirable retirement destination.
Retirement is a low-impact industry that many communities are trying to attract. With the retirees come the younger generation to provide care, followed by tradespeople and small businesses to provide for their non-medical needs and wishes.
Retirees are the one group that a community does not need to provide jobs for. They bring their pension cheques with them that they then spend, helping to create jobs.
Perhaps the most significant change may be that Texada will be seen as a more desirable place to live by people of all ages.
Currently, Texada sees many local jobs being held by non-residents. Would more of those workers live on Texada if they could be on Vancouver Island in about one hour?
Would businesses utilizing Texada rock or forest products thrive by having good access to Vancouver Island markets? The direct ferry link provides tremendous opportunity.
Many are skeptical that BC Ferries will not follow through on Collins' commitment. I am not one of them. I believe the old BC Ferries we all loved to hate is gone.
Collins comes across as what we old-school guys call a “straight shooter,” who appears to moving BC Ferries closer to what old WAC Bennett created… a service provider with the emphasis on service.
If a direct ferry link goes through, Texada may be in for one heck of a ride.
Chuck Childress is president of Texada Action Now Community Association.