In ‘never-ending story,’ coastal regional district chairs express concerns about ferries

Edwin Grieve commends his fellow members of the coastal regional district chairs for raising concerns about the ferry system.

TRANSPORTATION MINISTER MARY Polak heard concerns about BC Ferries recently from coastal regional district chairs

Edwin Grieve commends his fellow members of the coastal regional district chairs (CRDC) for raising concerns about the ferry system in recent meetings with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak and with Opposition MLAs.

But he says the ferry situation is a “never-ending story” that has been played out over the last two years, first with former MOTI minister Blair Lekstrom and now with Polak. The latter expects service cuts but said there will be no more funding available this year, and probably none in 2014, according to a news release from CRDC chair Colin Palmer of the Powell River Regional District.

Last year, Lekstrom announced the Province would commit an additional $79.5 million over four years to BC Ferries to reduce pressure on fares.

“It’s a matter of where the ferry system is going, what the long-term vision really is,” said Grieve, chair of the Comox Valley Regional District board. “According to Gord Macatee, the ferry commissioner, he doesn’t think they’ve got one; they don’t have a strategic plan. They don’t have a long-term plan for capital replacement.”

The CRDC, which represents 70 per cent of B.C.’s population, also discussed the Ferry Consultation and Engagement summary report with Polak. The document summarizes input from an eight-week public consultation process in the fall.

Grieve notes the negative impacts on tourism in the wake of rising fares and decreasing ridership. Visitors are looking at a “small fortune” if they want to bring a motor home to the Island, for instance.

“What we’re trying to convey to the Province is that this is an essential marine highway for the coastal and Island communities. It impacts not just on our quality of life but the economies as well,” Grieve said.

He notes the owner of Thrifty Foods has said how much freight bills alone will add to the average shopping cart on the Island.

Grieve finds it odd that taxpayers have no problem building highways and “shiny new bridges” but liken ferries to a cruiseship line.

He also notes BC Ferries was spun off from being a Crown corporation into a “quasi-independent company that is owned by the Crown,” which puts them at arms length from government books. But with coming replacement costs, he said the company has to borrow on the open market.

“They’re not taking advantage of the government rates,” Grieve said.

Over the next few years, he said the estimated cost to taxpayers is $30 million a year in the difference in interest.

In a separate meeting with Opposition MLAs Maurine Karagianis (Esquimalt-Metchosin), Claire Trevena (North Island) and Nicholas Simons (Powell River-Sunshine Coast), the chairs each expressed their views on the ferry system’s effects on their regions.

If the NDP forms the next government, the MLAs said they would like to make significant changes in operations of the coastal ferry service, as they are dissatisfied with high fares affecting local economies.

Karagianis said a thorough review of the Province’s finances is needed before any actions could be put in place.

reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Lake Trail students plan special project for Orange Shirt Day

Orange Shirt Day recognizes Indigenous children who were sent to residential schools

VIJHL season could start Oct. 1, says league president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

Weather warning issued for the Comox Valley

Series of storms to hit the east coast of Vancouver Island this week

Police reminding drivers about school zones, passing buses

“There is no excuse - everyone should know the kids are back to school.”

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

AAP deadline set for Courtenay bridge construction

Courtenay council has approved a Nov. 16 deadline for responses for an… Continue reading

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Most Read