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General News · 4th October 2012
Claire Trevena
B.C. Liberals' mismanagement of ferry system making life less affordable for British Columbians
British Columbians living in coastal communities deserve a ferry system that is affordable and treated as an integral part of the province's transportation system, say New Democrats.
"The B.C. Liberals have mishandled the ferry system throughout their term in office, and the result is that business, tourism and the future of coastal communities have been put at risk," said New Democrat ferries critic Gary Coons.
The B.C. Ferry Commission announced Monday that price caps would be allowed to increase by 4.1 per cent from April 2012 incrementally to a combined total of 12 per cent over three years by 2015. B.C. Ferries has said they intend to raise fares to the maximum under the new caps.
"When the Liberals privatized our ferries in 2003, they promised stable ferry fares. But since that time on the major routes the price cap increase has gone up by 47 per cent, and on minor routes by 80 per cent," said Coons.
"We know fares have already reached the tipping point, as we've seen a serious drop in ridership already. These further increases will just exasperate the problem, and people in ferry dependent communities are now looking at reduced service and increased costs."
B.C. Ferries posted record financial losses and has made cuts to service. From Oct. 1, 2012 to March 2013, B.C. Ferries will cut 98 round trips on major routes. Debt at the quasi-private corporation in 2011 stood at $1.38 billion.
"It is simply incredible that B.C. Ferries will be allowed to raise fares so much again,” said Claire Trevena, New Democrat MLA for North Island.
“In his report earlier this year, the Commissioner said they could go up within the rate of inflation, but this is a great deal more than inflation. He acknowledges that increased fares means decreasing use. Our island communities - the businesses and families - are already suffering because of 10 years of massive fare increases."
Trevena noted that life has become far less affordable under the B.C. Liberals. Not only have ferry fares been skyrocketing, but British Columbians are paying more for hydro rates, transit, MSP premiums, tuition, and we're still paying the Liberals' HST.
"The system is broken and needs a new direction now. The ferries are a part of our highways system, and it's time we got back to treating them as such," said Coons.
Adrian Dix and B.C.'s New Democrats are committed to supporting coastal communities and ensuring an efficient and affordable ferry service.