Comox Valley NDP candidate Kassandra Dycke took some time off from door-knocking Friday to talk about the NDP’s plan for BC Ferries.
“Ferries is an issue that’s on the minds of a lot of people who live here,” said Dycke, as she stood at the Comox Valley’s Little River ferry terminal. “These ferries aren’t just a part of our transportation system, they’re a part of our coastal culture, and we’ve got to make sure that what families need to have access to is well managed in B.C.”
NDP ferries critic and incumbent MLA for Esquimalt-Royal Roads Maurine Karagianis joined Dycke to explain the NDP plan to improve the ferry system.
The NDP has said, if elected, its government would freeze fares until 2015 — giving BC Ferries Corporation $20 million per year to offset the fare freeze — while it conducts an in-depth visioning process.
“Most marine industries plan for 20 to 30 years ahead,” said Karagianis, adding that has not been done. “We think it’s really important for us to plan for the long-term and think about how we can preserve the ferry service here as part of transportation infrastructure for the province.
“How does it fit with the other transportation we have, rail, transit, roads, bridges? We have never treated it as part of infrastructure in that sense but I think the 21st-century model says we’re going to have to do things in a different way.”
According to Karagianis, the visioning process would involve communities, chambers of commerce, municipalities and other stakeholder groups. It would look at how the system can best work, which may or may not mean a return to government control, she added.
“I think that the issue of whether it’s a Crown corporation or a stand-alone company does not resolve the issue of the debt and of the challenges around the loss of ridership and high ferry fares, so I think that that decision should be made as part of the future audit and visioning process,” said Karagianis.
Dycke added determining ferry fares would be an important part of the process, but there are many facets to consider at when looking at ferry service.
“We have to do our very best to manage this system well so that fares are as low as they possibly can be without putting our ferries in jeopardy,” she said. “We’ve got to make sure that the whole system operates well, and not only make sure that fares are affordable but make sure that service is reliable and that we have good integrated transportation links between different services that are on each side of the ferry.”
The Liberal government conducted a ferry service consultation process in 2012 but extended its deadline to announce service adjustments from June to next March.