Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson speaks to rally against ferry route cuts at the B.C. legislature Tuesday.

Island residents blast cuts to BC Ferries

Hundreds gather on legislature lawn to call for the provincial government to cancel cuts to low-usage routes due in April

VICTORIA – Hundreds of people gathered on the lawn of the B.C. legislature Tuesday to call for the provincial government to cancel its cuts to lower-usage ferry runs set to take effect in April.

Among the speakers at the rally were Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin and Sheila Malcolmson, chair of the Islands Trust, the local government for the Gulf Islands.

Malcolmson told a cheering crowd that the taxpayer subsidy to BC Ferries has been overemphasized. She said since the B.C. Liberal government took office in 2001, ferry users have paid $5 billion in fares, while taxpayers have subsidized the operation by $1 billion.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he welcomes protesters exercising their freedom of speech, but the intention to cut $18.9 million from low-usage routes was made clear before the 2013 election. The provincial subsidy to coastal ferries has increased by almost $90 million over three years, and cost reductions are needed to keep fares from rising further, he said.

“There are too many sailings on the BC Ferries system with utilization rates in the low teens and single digits, and I think British Columbians support us in believing that is not sustainable,” Stone said. “There are more staff than cars and passengers on many of these sailings.”

Opposition critics resumed their focus on the impact of ferry cuts in the legislature Tuesday. NDP leader Adrian Dix called on the government to do an economic impact study on tourism and other business in coastal communities.

Dix quoted Premier Christy Clark from her radio talk show in 2008, where she argued that fare hikes were reaching the point where they would produce net revenue loss.

North Island MLA Claire Trevena, the NDP critic on ferries, reminded Stone that replacing the Queen of Chilliwack with the much smaller, open-decked MV Nimpkish on the summer run from Bella Bella to Bella Coola has been greeted with dismay by tourism operators.

Stone said the existing service to Bella Coola carries about 500 vehicles during a 13-week season, with a public subsidy that works out to $2,500 per vehicle carried.

Trevena suggested that given the lack of facilities on the Nimpkish for a sailing of more than nine hours, an ad campaign for the Discovery Coast ferry route might include the slogan, “coming soon, drinkable water.”

 

Just Posted

Ticket prices going up for Agassiz bylaw infractions

Early fee payments will now see a 20 per cent discount, but most fees still higher

Short term rentals now allowed in Agassiz

Kent council approved bylaw changes to allow AirBnBs after a second public hearing

Agassiz, Harrison organizations receive more than $140K in gaming grants

Grants will go to support local sports, arts groups for the 2019-20 fiscal year

Brother of Chilliwack homicide victim killed in Surrey on Remembrance Day

Andrew Baldwin shot on Nov. 11, three weeks after Keith Baldwin shot in downtown Chilliwack

Volunteer organization provides first aid and rescue services

Main fundraiser, the Winter Extreme Ski and Board Swap, takes place at Abbotsford Exhibition Park Nov. 16 and 17

VIDEO: Agassiz, Harrison honour Remembrance Day

The annual ceremony took place at AESS, followed by a moment of silence at the Agassiz cenotaph

UPDATE: Metro Vancouver bus drivers to refuse overtime as transit strike escalates

Overtime ban could disrupt 10-15 per cent of bus service in Metro Vancouver

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

South Surrey man and city settle beef over backyard cow

Asad Syed, who kept a calf on his property last year, met City of Surrey in court Tuesday

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

Most Read