B.C. NDP LEADER Adrian Dix greets supporters during a visit to the Comox Valley.

NDP might bring BC Ferries back under government control — Dix

An NDP government would consider bringing the ferry system back under government control, according to BC NDP leader Adrian Dix.

An NDP government would consider bringing the ferry system back under government control, according to BC NDP leader Adrian Dix.

He stressed a “comprehensive audit” of BC Ferries would be the first step, but during his campaign stop in the Comox Valley last week, Dix said the return to a government-controlled ferry system would be a possibility.

“We know that the costs of BC Ferries and the costs for travellers is dramatically affecting, now, BC Ferries’ revenue,” Dix said Thursday. “There is a tipping point, and we’re at that tipping point where the increases in fares means people aren’t taking the ferries — many people aren’t taking the ferries or it’s obviously those who have no option that take the ferries.”

The BC NDP announced last week it would freeze ferry fares for two years and conduct an audit of the system.

Fares were hiked by four per cent April 1, with plans for two more four-per-cent fare hikes in 2014 and 2015. The NDP has said it would give BC Ferries Corporation $20 million per year for the two years of fare freezes if elected.

Meanwhile, when asked about his stance on the proposed Raven Underground Coal Project near Fanny Bay, Dix said an NDP government would ensure a high standard for environmental reviews at the provincial level. But, he wouldn’t comment on this project in particular.

“In the case of this coal mine, we haven’t seen the proposal,” he said, noting the application is still in the early stages. “There’s great concern here and I think that because we haven’t seen the proposal, it’s important not to pass judgment on it, but there’s great concern, we have great concern about its impact, its impact on other industries and life in the region.

“As we enter into this period where the federal government is actually withdrawing from environmental assessment that’s an issue of concern that we have to address, so I say more resources (for provincial assessments) so we get to decisions and higher standards. And, obviously we have to very seriously recognize the concerns of the community, the concerns of the shellfish industry in assessing where this thing is at.”

Dix has long been critical of public-private-partnership models in health care, pointing to a lack of flexibility in the decades-long agreements. However, he wouldn’t say what an NDP government would do in regards to the proposed P3 model for the North Island Hospitals Project.

The Request for Proposals has been issued for the project to build new hospitals in the Comox Valley and Campbell River, but the Vancouver Island Health Authority is not expected to choose the consortium until the fall.

While the contract would not yet be signed if an NDP government is elected in May, Dix said his government would have to assess projects work has been started on, like this one, before making any decisions.

“My preference is not to proceed in health care with P3s but we have to see what we inherit, what the circumstances are, because what’s most important isn’t the financing model, what’s most important is the public healthcare system,” he said. “So we have to see what’s best for people now.”

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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