MLA encourages residents to get involved in ferry review

The current review of B.C. Ferries is an opportunity for the public to tell the government, in a way the Liberals cannot ignore, that fares are too steep.

The current review of B.C. Ferries is an opportunity for the public to tell the government, in a way the Liberals cannot ignore, that fares are too steep.

British Columbia’s coastal communities have been devastated by frequent and steep ferry fare increases since our ferries were privatized in 2003 by the Liberals.

In doing so, the Liberals removed ferries from the Highways Act and turned ferries management into a corporate entity managed by a CEO earning over $1 million per year.

The result of that decision eight years ago has not only been an increase of fares by more than 100 per cent on some runs, but also a significant drop in ridership, serious concerns about safety, executive compensation, and fiscal management and an ideological shift away from providing a service to communities in favour of being a cruise line.

To date, the mounting concerns raised by New Democrats, the Ferries Advisory Council and the public have fallen on deaf ears in the Liberal cabinet.

However in May the new Ferry Commissioner, Gord Macatee, announced a review into B.C. Ferries and the Coastal Ferry Act, committing to engage “with the public and key stakeholders.”

New Democrats have been calling for such a review for many years and the process is a great opportunity for British Columbians, provided the process is not corrupted by the Liberal government.

And the Liberals may try to manipulate the outcome of the review, just as they have tried with the HST referendum.

Remember these are the same Liberals who said “Boo hoo” in the legislature when New Democrat MLA Doug Routley rose to speak about the affects of fares on coastal B.C. families.

And these are the same Liberals who promised stable fares in 2003 when they privatized ferries. Obviously that promise was broken a long time ago.

It’s unfortunate the Liberals are allowing fares to increase while the review is conducted. Fares are already far beyond reach for many families (as evidenced by the drop in ridership), and should be frozen at current levels until the review is complete.

The review won’t be complete until after the expected fall election, meaning we would have to take the Liberals’ word that they may act on any recommendations coming out of the review. Unfortunately, most British Columbians do not feel the Liberals can be trusted.

This review is an opportunity for the public to make their voices heard on how their lives and businesses have been affected by the never-ending fare increases.

New Democrats look forward to the review’s findings, and as government would not only look at its recommendations, but also the submissions themselves

That’s why it’s important for residents to contact the commissioner and make their voices heard.

Do you think our ferries are fine as they are?

Do you want to see ferries treated as an extension of our highway system?

Are fares too high?

Has the privatization of ferries been a success or a failure?

Whatever your position, I urge you to get involved. The commissioner will report out in 2012, so now is the time to weigh in.

To find out more about the review of the Coastal Ferry Act or to  contact the commissioner by phone or email, go to  www.bcferrycommission.com