To the editor,
Thank you for the detailed and valuable coverage of the ferry consultation meeting that was held in Port Hardy on November 23. Your report contained a lot of useful information.
But there’s one key point that needs to be made clear: the role of the provincial government.
The Province decided to hold this consultation. The Province prepared the information in the booklets. The Province is calling for the $26 million in cuts to ferry service. For all we know, BC Ferries may be offering ideas on what sailings to target. But it’s the Province that will pull the trigger.
The Province also created the current complicated ferry system. The Province, the company and the ferry commission each play a role. But the Province’s role is the biggest.
The Province decides on service levels. The Province decides how much it wants to contribute to ferry service. With that information the Commission sets fares.
It’s the Province that pushed the system toward user-pay — unlike highways, transit or inland ferries.
The Province chose to make users pay all the cost for badly-needed new ships. The Province chose to make users pay all the cost of fuel price increases. The only exceptions are some government support for two new northern ships and fuel on northern routes.
BC Ferries runs the ferry service. Yes that’s a big deal. And, yes, the company needs to answer for its decisions. But no management or operational decision has been big enough to break the system.
The system is broken because the Province chose to make users pay crippling fares they can’t afford. The high fuel costs of the last decade and the high capital costs now, which are making up for decades of government neglect, are all falling on the backs of users.
We — representatives of ferry users and ferry-dependent communities — think the system can only be fixed by looking at why users are paying all those costs. We need to ask how can ferry service can support and grow coastal communities, and who should be paying for what.
These are issues only the Province can rule on. We just wish the Province had put those issues on the table in this consultation.
Co-chairs, along with all members of the Tri-Island Ferry Advisory Committee
(Port McNeill, Alert Bay, Sointula)