MLA Coons blasts government over ferry fare increases

  • Nov. 7, 2006 6:00 a.m.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons is blasting BC Ferries and the Liberal government for the fact that ferry fares have gone up by nearly 50 percent in the past four years.
Mr. Coons said the skyrocketing fares prove that the Liberals’ 2003 decision to semi-privatize the ferry corporation has been bad for BC residents.
“The Ministry of Transportation sent out a press release in March 2003 saying that the Coastal Ferry Act, which led to the so-called privatized ferry system, would mean stable rates,” said Mr. Coons, who is the NDP critic for Ferries and Ports. “An increase of nearly 50 percent is hardly stable, when you consider the inflation rate over the same period has been around 3 percent.”
The increase includes annual rate hikes, applied every year on Nov. 1 to most routes, as well as three fuel surcharges.
In November 2002, when BC Ferries was still a crown corporation, a single person driving an average car paid $32 to go from Vancouver to Victoria. The same trip now costs $47.20 – a 48 percent increase, Mr. Coons pointed out. The trip between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert has gone up by a similar percentage – from $176.25 in 2002 to $258.30 today.
“Queen Charlotte costs also continue to skyrocket out of control, as well as the cost of goods and services,” Mr. Coons said.
Mr. Coons called on Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon to re-evaluate the course BC Ferries is on, and explain to the public why the quasi-private model for BC Ferries should continue.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall didn’t dispute Mr. Coons’ calculations, but said all the money collected from passengers goes directly back into services.
The ferry service is spending substantial amounts on new vessels and new facilities, she pointed out. Besides having just purchased a vessel, the Sonia, to replace the Queen of the North, BC Ferries will have to spend around $4-million this winter to renovate the docks at Skidegate, Prince Rupert, Port Hardy and McLoughlin Bay to accommodate the new ship.
The three fuel surcharges account for a substantial portion of the fare increase. Ms Marshall said the cost of fuel is completely out of BC Ferries’ control.