Premier hears about ferry service at UBCM conference

Coastal regional district chairs met Tuesday with Premier Christy Clark and Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver, continuing their collaborative work to improve the coastal ferry service.

Coastal regional district chairs met Tuesday with Premier Christy Clark and Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver, continuing their collaborative work to improve the coastal ferry service. Comox Valley Regional District chair Edwin Grieve was among the 11-person group that presented a policy paper that “looks at the picture from our point of view. “Quite often they look at ferries in the light of tourism and judge it by that, and for us it’s not about that. It is our lifeline of communication and transportation, and economic development and everything else,” Grieve said.”I think we definitely made the most of our 15 minutes there,” he added. “We discussed a wide range of what our particular interests were from our communities’ point of view. I was most keenly lobbying for the smaller routes such as Denman-Hornby and Quadra-Cortez islands.”Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson was “very articulate” voicing concerns on behalf of families and the tourism sector, Grieve added.The meeting brought to light certain points of which Grieve was not aware. For instance, ridership is down on all ferry routes, including a seven per cent drop on interior freshwater routes. “It’s kind of across the board,” he said. BC Ferries plans to cut up to 400 sailings to deal with a $35-million deficit. Cuts are not planned for smaller routes such as the Gulf Islands.Passenger trips have dropped to a 20-year low and vehicle traffic has dropped to an 11-year low. BC Ferries CEO David Hahn — who resigned from his million-dollar post shortly before Tuesday’s meeting — blames the decrease on rising fuel costs, a slow economy and a strong Canadian dollar. Others blame increased ferry rates.There was some conversation at UBCM about taking on the ferry debt.”They’re very reluctant because B.C. has a triple-A credit rating, and they would rather keep the ferries separate on the books,” Grieve said. BC Ferries Commissioner Gordon Macatee, who is scheduled to appear at the next regional district committee of the whole session Oct. 18, has expanded his mandate to include ferry users, rather than just the economic viability of the BC Ferries Corporation. His review of ferry fares is due in January, though Clark might push to have the report released at an earlier date. Clark invited the coastal chairs to reconvene with her once Macatee’s report is out.reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.comComox Valley Regional District chair Edwin Grieve was among the 11-person group that presented a policy paper that “looks at the picture from our point of view. “Quite often they look at ferries in the light of tourism and judge it by that, and for us it’s not about that. It is our lifeline of communication and transportation, and economic development and everything else,” Grieve said.”I think we definitely made the most of our 15 minutes there,” he added. “We discussed a wide range of what our particular interests were from our communities’ point of view. I was most keenly lobbying for the smaller routes such as Denman-Hornby and Quadra-Cortez islands.”Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson was “very articulate” voicing concerns on behalf of families and the tourism sector, Grieve added.The meeting brought to light certain points of which Grieve was not aware. For instance, ridership is down on all ferry routes, including a seven per cent drop on interior freshwater routes. “It’s kind of across the board,” he said. BC Ferries plans to cut up to 400 sailings to deal with a $35-million deficit. Cuts are not planned for smaller routes such as the Gulf Islands.Passenger trips have dropped to a 20-year low and vehicle traffic has dropped to an 11-year low. BC Ferries CEO David Hahn — who resigned from his million-dollar post shortly before Tuesday’s meeting — blames the decrease on rising fuel costs, a slow economy and a strong Canadian dollar. Others blame increased ferry rates.There was some conversation at UBCM about taking on the ferry debt.”They’re very reluctant because B.C. has a triple-A credit rating, and they would rather keep the ferries separate on the books,” Grieve said. BC Ferries Commissioner Gordon Macatee, who is scheduled to appear at the next regional district committee of the whole session Oct. 18, has expanded his mandate to include ferry users, rather than just the economic viability of the BC Ferries Corporation. His review of ferry fares is due in January, though Clark might push to have the report released at an earlier date. Clark invited the coastal chairs to reconvene with her once Macatee’s report is out.reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com