Strathcona Regional District (SRD) director Jim Abram is disappointed the government isn’t considering moving the coastal ferry system back under ministry control.
Abram is the Area C director on the board of the SRD, representing the people of the Discovery Islands and Mainland Inlets in the region, and he says when the provincial government announced it was going to review how BC Ferries would operate going forward, he was optimistic. However, when the announcement came down last week that the review will not consider bringing the corporation back under government control, that optimism left him pretty quickly.
“They’re doing this review, which is great, but then they say specifically that it won’t look at giving it back to the government,” Abram says, “which is what everybody in the province has been telling them they want.”
According to the terms of reference provided by the provincial government for the review, it will examine “whether the contracted ferry services are being provided for in a manner that supports the public interest,” “consider what changes to the price cap and regulatory model would ensure the ferry system is working as efficiently and effectively as possible for all British Columbians, and, in particular, for the ferry users and communities who depend on this essential service,” and, “identify opportunities and recommend actions to enhance ferry service delivery and/or reduce costs without impacting existing service.”
But it won’t be considering bringing the company back under government control, which Abram says makes the review a “waste of time.”
Abram says he was hopeful that since the NDP campaigned on the idea of bringing ferries back under the umbrella of the Ministry of Transportation, that it might actually happen.
“John Horgan himself said to me and a group of councilors, mayors and directors at the AVICC (Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities) conference when he was asked what they would do if they were elected, and he said ‘the very first thing we are going to do is tear up the Coastal Ferry Act,’” Abram says, “and that would be great, because if they tore up the Coastal Ferry Act, we’d be right back to where things were when they were working.”
If the Coastal Ferry Act was, in fact, “torn up,” Abram says, “the coastal ferries would be treated just like the inland ferries. Basically, everything would be free, just like every other part of the highway, and everybody would pay for everything, just like everything else. If you spread it across the entire province worth of people, it would be pennies. And they just keep saying it would cost too much, but they’re not even looking at it, so they don’t even know what the cost would be.”
The final review will be presented to the government by June 2018.