Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson speaks to rally against ferry route cuts at the B.C. legislature Tuesday.

Island residents blast cuts to BC Ferries

Hundreds gather on legislature lawn to call for the provincial government to cancel cuts to low-usage routes due in April

VICTORIA – Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the B.C. legislature Tuesday to call for the provincial government to cancel its cuts to lower-usage ferry runs set to take effect in April.

Among the speakers at the rally were Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Sheila Malcolmson, chair of the Islands Trust, the local government for the Gulf Islands.

Malcolmson told a cheering crowd that the taxpayer subsidy to BC Ferries has been overemphasized. She said since the B.C. Liberal government took office in 2001, ferry users have paid $5 billion in fares, while taxpayers have subsidized the operation by $1 billion.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he welcomes protesters exercising their freedom of speech, but the intention to cut $18.9 million from low-usage routes was made clear before the 2013 election. The provincial subsidy to coastal ferries has increased by almost $90 million over three years, and cost reductions are needed to keep fares from rising further, he said.

“There are too many sailings on the BC Ferries system with utilization rates in the low teens and single digits, and I think British Columbians support us in believing that is not sustainable,” Stone said. “There are more staff than cars and passengers on many of these sailings.”

Opposition critics resumed their focus on the impact of ferry cuts in the legislature Tuesday. NDP leader Adrian Dix called on the government to do an economic impact study on tourism and other business in coastal communities.

Dix quoted Premier Christy Clark from her radio talk show in 2008, where she argued that fare hikes were reaching the point where they would produce net revenue loss.

North Island MLA Claire Trevena, the NDP critic on ferries, reminded Stone that replacing the Queen of Chilliwack with the much smaller, open-decked MV Nimpkish on the summer run from Bella Bella to Bella Coola has been greeted with dismay by tourism operators.

Stone said the existing service to Bella Coola carries about 500 vehicles during a 13-week season, with a public subsidy that works out to $2,500 per vehicle carried.

Trevena suggested that given the lack of facilities on the Nimpkish for a sailing of more than nine hours, an ad campaign for the Discovery Coast ferry route might include the slogan, “coming soon, drinkable water.”

 

Just Posted

Nuslhiixwta – A Place of Treasures – celebrates new name

After months of thought and deliberation, Healthy Beginnings now has a new name.

It’s the last day to vote in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots must now be dropped off in person to meet the deadline of 4:30 p.m.

North Coast First Nation chief says one major oil spill could ruin economy forever

Chief Marilyn Slett of Heiltsuk Nation near Bella Bella is leading a delegation in Ottawa this week

How to decide what to vote for in B.C.’s referendum on electoral reform

Ballots are due at Elections BC on Friday, Dec. 7, at 4:30 p.m.

Northern Health investigates racist posts of possible employee

Facebook comments call for segregated health authorities

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

France shooting: 2 dead, several wounded in Strasbourg

A world-famous Christmas market was put on lock down on Tuesday

Canadian warship witnesses possible violations of North Korea sanctions

Crew members on HMCS Calgary took photos and collected other information

Christine Sinclair named Canadian Women’s player of the year again

This is the 14th time Sinclair has been named player of the year

B.C. man wants trapping laws changed after dog killed

Louis Seguin’s 10-month-old Australian shepherd died in a body-gripping trap last month

Nearly 8,000 homeless in B.C., first province-wide count reveals

Twenty-four seperate counts in B.C. cities found there are thousands of homeless in all corners of province

UPDATE: B.C. judge grants $10M bail for Huawei executive wanted by U.S.

Meng Wanzhou was detained at the request of the U.S. during a layover at the Vancouver airport

Oogie Boogie, Sandy Claws and coffin sleigh part of B.C. couple’s holiday display

Chilliwack couple decorates their house for the holidays using Nightmare Before Christmas theme

Most Read