By Roy L Hales
Everyone knows that B.C. Ferries is losing money. According to their press release last November, the supposedly “publicly owned company” was $1.2 billion in debt. Yet this morning Claire Trevena, the NDP critic for transportation, announced that an NDP Government would reduce some ferry fares.
NDP Government Would Reduce Some Ferry Fares
The NDP intend to cut ferry fares by 15% on minor routes, freeze rates on major routes and reinstate free weekday travel for seniors.
“This is an essential first step in making BC Ferries affordable and accountable to Island residents. I am determined to ensure the ferries once again become an integral part of our highways system,” said Trevena.1
BC ferries was a crown corporation until 2003, when Premier Gordon Campbell’s government set it up as a “public company.” The only voting shareholder is the provincial government’s BC Ferry Authority.
“BC ferries is quasi private, quasi public. You have a Minister who takes absolutely no responsibility for BC ferries in his portfolio. So you have this very strange construct that doesn’t really work for anyone,”said Trevena.2
High Fares Have Deterred Traffic
Dallas Smith, her Liberal opponent in the North Island during the upcoming election, was skeptical about the idea that high ferry fares are turning away potential traffic. 3
Trevena cited numerous examples to the contrary:
- Grieg Seafoods on Quadra Island is no longer selling their farmed salmon to Walcan because of the ferry costs.
- People involved in Cortes Island’s tourist sector told Trevena their businesses were devastated because people start looking at the cost of bringing over a trailer, or a boat, and decide to go elsewhere.
- She knows of Quadra Island residents who have not taken trips to Campbell River because of the cost.
- Someone from Prince George did not visit their grandchildren on Vancouver Island because of the cost.
“It impacts in so many different ways, whether it is the small tourist operator or bigger businesses. The cost of ferries is having a huge negative impact on our economy and it is not just our islands – the cost of ferries is having an impact across the province, ” says Trevena.
She added, “Any economist will show you that if you decrease fares, More people will use the system.”
The ferry announcement was one of the “initiatives to make an NDP government accountable to everyone in BC and not the rich donors who fund the BC Liberals.”
Pledges in The NDP Platform
Trevena’s press release also mentioned other NDP initiatives announced today:
- “a comprehensive action plan defending our coastal waters by stopping Kinder Morgan
- maintaining the existing pledge to shift to closed containment fish farms
- revitalizing the forest industry
- ending corporate and union donations to political parties
- developing a provincial poverty reduction plan
- $10 a day child care
- freezing Hydro & ICBC rates and eliminating MSP fees
- Infrastructure spending to create 96,000 jobs
- A $400 renter’s rebate
- Interest free student loans”
For the complete platform go to bcndp.ca/plan.
Top Photo Credit: Ferry Approaching Heriot Bay on Quadra Island – Roy L Hales photo