Ferry report calls for changes

  • Jan. 25, 2012 6:00 a.m.

BC Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee, who heard from many islanders when he visited Haida Gwaii in August, has completed his report on the Coastal Ferry Act, and it calls for changes. Mr. Macatee’s report contains 24 major recommendations for the provincial government, BC Ferries, and ferry users, all intended to balance the interests of ferry users with the long-term financial sustainability of BC Ferries and the broader interests of BC taxpayers. Among the recommendations are that the province contribute more money to the ferry system, especially to cushion the effect of fuel price increases, and that any future fare hikes be no more than the rate of inflation. Mr. Macatee also calls for larger roles for local governments on routes in their areas, and says that ferry users will have to open to changes in the service. As part of his review, Mr. Macatee and deputy commission Sheldon Stoilen held 40 meetings in 27 communities, and heard from around 2,000 people. The review also looks at how other ferry systems work around the world. In the 104-page report, Mr. Macatee said he heard that fares have reached the point where they are not affordable for some. “Current ferry fares and the proposed increases have reached the tipping point of affordability and are imposing significant hardship n ferry dependent communities and the ability of people to visit family members and friends as frequently as they would like,” he wrote. Ferry users also told him that BC Ferries procedures don’t always serve their interests and that they don’t get consulted on decisions that affect them. The complete report is available on the ferry commissioner’s website (www.bcferrycommission.com).