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Quadra, Cortes runs to get dinged with fuel surcharge

North Island MLA and ferry critic Claire Trevena says BC Ferries’ recent announcement that it will implement a fuel surcharge is “unacceptable.”

The corporation announced last week that it will add the new charge on the majority of its routes, including the Campbell River-Quadra Island run and the Quadra Island-Cortes Island route, effective Jan. 17.

Trevena said the increase will be especially hard on people considering all the escalating costs around the province in 2014.

“We’ve got the MSP (Medical Service Premiums) rises going in, we’ve got the Hydro rate increase and now we’ve got this on top of it,” Trevena said. “I think it’s really unacceptable. I think the (B.C. Liberal) government has to accept responsibility for BC Ferries.

“The minister has to step in and say residents should not be gouged simply to use their highway.”

Trevena said the fuel surcharge is particularly hard to accept because BC Ferries will also be raising fares by roughly four per cent in April and is considering sailing cuts.

Trevena said the escalating costs have forced people to pick up and leave their home on Quadra.

“It’s no question, people have moved off the island because of the costs,” Trevena said. “People can’t afford to use their highway system.”

BC Ferries says the corporation made the decision to implement a fuel surcharge because it’s been paying 14 cents more per litre for diesel than what was anticipated by the ferries commissioner when he approved the fuel prices that are built into ferry fares.

“Market pricing indicates that the price differential will continue throughout the year,” said Mike Corrigan, BC Ferries’s President and CEO, in a news release. “We are well aware that implementing a fuel surcharge is unpopular with our customers, and we are doing everything we can to keep our fuel costs as low as possible, including building new ships with LNG capability.

“We have waited as long as we can to implement a surcharge, however, we must act now as it is clear that fuel prices are unlikely to decline in the foreseeable future.”

BC Ferries says it has reduced its fuel consumption by 5.8 million litres since 2004 but the price of fuel has increased significantly since then, from $50 million in fiscal 2004 to $121 million in fiscal 2013.

Over the last nine years, BC Ferries has had fuel surcharges, fuel rebates and periods of time with neither, all dependent on the market price of diesel fuel.

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