Ferries are a way of life on the B.C. coast but growing concerns over high fares, long waits, and service levels for the Gulf Islands mean it’s anything but smooth sailing.
“We hear a huge amount of dissatisfaction from people who live and work on the coast,” says transportation minister Claire Trevena. “It really is time to make sure BC Ferries is working in the public interest.”
Keeping an election promise, B.C.’s transportation minister is launching a comprehensive review of coastal ferry service starting in January, to find ways to improve service and make it more efficient and more affordable. But one key issue the $250,000 review won’t be looking at is whether to bring the ferry service back into government.
“I’m not going to be looking explicitly at governance models,” Trevena says. “What we want to make sure is BC Ferries works for the people of British Columbia, however that is delivered.”
But ferry advocates say not re-evaluating the Liberals’ controversial decision to privatize ferries more than 14 years ago is totally ridiculous.
“My reaction was absolute disgust,” says Strathcona Regional District director Jim Abram, who lives on Quadra Island. “Although they’ve said everything is on the table, they’re now saying we are not going to look at the governance of BC Ferries? Come on!”
Not only that, Abram says premier John Horgan promised him and other members of the Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities that if the NDP were elected, they’d change the current model.
“His comment was the first thing we’ll be doing is tearing up the coastal ferry act,” says Abram. “We’ve been stuck with it for all these years and all it has done is drag this corporation into the water. It’s been a sinking ship for years.”
Pressed on the issue, Trevena appeared to waiver on whether the current governance model will be looked at, despite a media release that said that would not be part of the review.
“We’re going to be doing an awful lot here and part of that will obviously look at the Coastal Ferries Act,” Trevena says. “Is this a good model? I’m not going to pre-judge the outcome of the review but this is the approach, let’s look at how BC Ferries is working under the Coastal Ferries Act.”
The province has appointed Blair Redlin, a former deputy minister of transportation and former CEO of the BC Transportation Financing Authority, to oversee the review. It will be completed in June.