Municipal officials want lower ferry fees, more service

  • Sep. 29, 2014 6:00 a.m.

By Shaun Thomas–Elected officials from across the province have unanimously voted to reduce fees and restore service aboard BC Ferries. The Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) voted this morning to support a report that recommended the provincial government rollback fares and service levels to 2013 levels before sailings were reduced to save the company money and undertake a comprehensive impact study. “I was thrilled with the vote, but I wasn’t surprised. I think it shows that all of the municipalities in the province recognize the importance of having a functioning transportation system and that includes the ferry service,” said Masset Mayor Andrew Merilees. “I would like to see the province implement the recommendations and look at the deep systemic problems of BC Ferries and work with communities that rely on the ferry system tome up with a solution that gives those communities what they need while not harming the provincial economy.” Those sentiments were echoed by Queen Charlotte Mayor Carol Kulesha. “I think it’s wonderful. One thing the province has used to justify increasing fares is the fact that people across B.C.do ot want to support more money for ferries, but here at UBCM it had everyone’s support,” she said.The vote was taken following the release of a policy paper indicating rising ferry fares have resulted in a $2.3 billion loss to the B.C. economy. It’s a report that found favour among those at the UBCM meeting, but one Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who wasted no time in saying a fare rollback wasn’t going to happen, blasted as being inaccurate and misleading.  But he said he won’t overrule the independent ferry commissioner and force a reduction in fares.”That’s not going to happen,” Stone said, adding he also firmly rejected a call from coastal communities to raise taxes to increase ferry subsidies.Instead, he said, fare restraint must come from innovation and efficiencies that will deliver savings that can be reinvested in the ferry system.”Leaders in coastal communities are going to have to work with us and embrace a number of other ideas, which could include alternative technologies, fixed links, alternative fuels, passenger-only ferries in complement to vehicle ferries – a wide range of ideas we’ve thrown out there.”

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