Ferry regulators to hold meetings here this month

  • Aug. 8, 2011 7:00 p.m.

The top ferry regulators are coming to the islands at the end of this month. The ferry advisory committees pressured the BC Ferry Commissioner and his deputy to tour ferry-based communities. “They are doing a review of the price cap policies,” according to Evan Putterill, Area E director for the regional district. Commissioner Gord Macatee will hold meetings in Sandspit, Masset, Port Clements and Queen Charlotte. He’s travelling to Haida Gwaii by ferry, and will take the Kwuna to and from Moresby island, so he’ll get an idea about how important the ferries are to islanders. Mr. Macatee was appointed to the position in May and is touring several communities.Speaking to The Observer on Tuesday from Port Hardy on his way to Bella Bella, Mr. Macatee said he’s held two meetings so far, has had “a very positive and warm response” from those who attended, but that “to be honest, it’s still too early” to form an opinion. “I wanted to start my term by getting around to all communities that are dependent on ferries,” Mr. Macatee said.The commissioner recently approved a price increase of 6.71 percent (effective April 1), which is above the rate of inflation. Mr. Putterill said he’d like the commissioners to hear input on alternative processes for setting fair ferry fares. He’d like an analysis of what is fair to the local economy and ensuring that policies are designed around that instead of assuming that no further subsidies to BC Ferries will be in the offing. He’s looking forward to making these points at the August 28 meeting in Sandspit. Meetings will also be held in Masset and Port Clements and Queen Charlotte, all on Monday August 29, with Masset in the morning, Port in the afternoon and Charlotte in the evening. Mr. Macatee is a former deputy minister of Health. The deputy Ferry Commissioner is Shelton Stoilen, a chartered accountant. Both are appointed by the province as independent officers. They do not answer to any elected officials or the BC Ferry Authority and their decisions can not be appealed except on a question of law. The Commission regulates fares and service levels of BC Ferries. Mr. Macatee told The Observer that the ferry legislation has been in place now for eight years, and it’s “definitely time for a review”. He said he doesn’t have any direct power to roll back or set fares or change service levels, but will be making recommendations to the provincial government.More information can be found at www.bcferrycommission.com.