Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson speaks to rally against ferry route cuts at the B.C. legislature Tuesday.

Island residents blast cuts to BC Ferries

Hundreds gather on legislature lawn to call for the provincial government to cancel cuts to low-usage routes due in April

VICTORIA – Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the B.C. legislature Tuesday to call for the provincial government to cancel its cuts to lower-usage ferry runs set to take effect in April.

Among the speakers at the rally were Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Sheila Malcolmson, chair of the Islands Trust, the local government for the Gulf Islands.

Malcolmson told a cheering crowd that the taxpayer subsidy to BC Ferries has been overemphasized. She said since the B.C. Liberal government took office in 2001, ferry users have paid $5 billion in fares, while taxpayers have subsidized the operation by $1 billion.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he welcomes protesters exercising their freedom of speech, but the intention to cut $18.9 million from low-usage routes was made clear before the 2013 election. The provincial subsidy to coastal ferries has increased by almost $90 million over three years, and cost reductions are needed to keep fares from rising further, he said.

“There are too many sailings on the BC Ferries system with utilization rates in the low teens and single digits, and I think British Columbians support us in believing that is not sustainable,” Stone said. “There are more staff than cars and passengers on many of these sailings.”

Opposition critics resumed their focus on the impact of ferry cuts in the legislature Tuesday. NDP leader Adrian Dix called on the government to do an economic impact study on tourism and other business in coastal communities.

Dix quoted Premier Christy Clark from her radio talk show in 2008, where she argued that fare hikes were reaching the point where they would produce net revenue loss.

North Island MLA Claire Trevena, the NDP critic on ferries, reminded Stone that replacing the Queen of Chilliwack with the much smaller, open-decked MV Nimpkish on the summer run from Bella Bella to Bella Coola has been greeted with dismay by tourism operators.

Stone said the existing service to Bella Coola carries about 500 vehicles during a 13-week season, with a public subsidy that works out to $2,500 per vehicle carried.

Trevena suggested that given the lack of facilities on the Nimpkish for a sailing of more than nine hours, an ad campaign for the Discovery Coast ferry route might include the slogan, “coming soon, drinkable water.”

 

Just Posted

Gwaii Haanas celebrates new Land-Sea-People plan

Forty per cent of Gwaii Haanas marine areas protected under new, integrated plan

Kitimat arena closed until further notice due to chilling system malfunction

Saturday night’s Terrace River Kings and Kitimat Ice Demons game was cancelled as a result

Northwest Regional Airport traffic increases

LNG announcement has sparked interest

Study being conducted on proposed railyard

Facility could offload up to 60 rail cars of propane daily

Police aim to prevent retaliation after Hells Angel found dead under B.C. bridge

IHIT confirms Chad Wilson, 43, was the victim of a ‘targeted’ homicide

731,000 Canadians going into debt to buy prescription drugs: UBC

Millennials and those without private coverage were more likely to borrow money

Pot users, investors need to be vigilant at Canada-U.S. border

U.S. authorities say anyone who admits to having used pot before it became legal could be barred

Shirtless stranger loomed over couch and started stabbing, bloody B.C. murder trial hears

Colin John pleads not guilty as trial opens in 2016 Chemainus murder case

Late 2019 too long to wait for ridesharing: B.C. Conservatives

“While the rest of the world is embracing this transportation revolution, B.C. is only now staggering slowly toward legislation on a business model that’s been mainstreamed for over a decade in other jurisdictions.”

ICBC warns shoppers of the high-accident season at mall parking lots

Over 150,000 accidents happened during the holiday season last year

No deal in sight: Canada Post warns of delivery delays into January

Union holds fifth week of rotating strikes as both sides remain apart on contract negotiations

COLUMN: Higher interest rates will slow B.C. economy after ‘unusually robust’ show

Jock Finlayson is executive vice president and chief policy officer of the Business Council of BC

Jason Aldean, Old Dominion to headline Merritt’s Rockin’ River concerts next summer

Four-day music festival at Coldwater River from Aug. 1 to 4

Most Read