Ferry increase ‘appalling’

An increase of roughly four per cent in each of the next three years was approved by Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee

BC Ferries’ intention to raise fares again is “appalling” and “disgraceful” says North Island MLA Claire Trevena.

An increase of roughly four per cent in each of the next three years was approved by Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee on Monday.

“I think it’s outrageous the ferry commissioner could be suggesting this,” Trevena said. “In his report earlier this year he said rates should not be driven higher than the rate of inflation but these are well over inflation. Inflation is running around one per cent.”

Trevena said island dwellers are being punished by BC Ferries.

“It’s simply disgraceful the cost keeps getting downloaded onto individuals. It’s appalling,” Trevena said. “An increase for families living on the islands is crippling. It’s been 10 years of ferry increases. People can’t take it anymore. It’s been over a 100 per cent increase since 2002 on the Campbell River (to) Quadra run and I think it’s similar for Quadra to Cortes. One person told me it costs the same – if not less – to ship something from China to the Lower Mainland as it does from Vancouver to one of the islands.”

BC Ferries was also given the green light to reduce its service.

The corporation plans to cut some sailings beginning Oct. 9, when ridership is low on routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. BC Ferries plans to cut around 100 sailings that run at the top of the hour this fall and winter. Most of the affected sailings will be on the Tsawassen to Duke Point run which typically sails under capacity. That concerns Trevena.

“I think it’s very worrying they’re starting to shave off service here and there,” she said. “Some people base their whole lives around the ferry. To start cutting service because it’s not convenient for ferries to serve the islands it’s supposed to be serving is a dereliction of their responsibility. This is our highway, if we start cutting routes or service, it is basically shutting down the highway. There’s people who have to use the ferry for business and they are feeling penalized.”

The cuts follow Macatee’s instruction that BC Ferries must find more than $54 million in savings over four years, including $30 million in service reduction. Ferries experienced a loss of revenue last year, recording a 21-year low in passenger traffic and a 13-year low in vehicle traffic. The province injected $79.5 million into BC Ferries in May to reduce the pressure for higher ferry fares.