B.C. seeks ways to ease ferry fare hikes

New ferries have added costs to the BC Ferries fleet. Fares are going up across the fleet

VICTORIA – BC Ferries isn’t allowed to use revenue from its busy routes to prevent steeper increases on the smaller island and northern runs.

That is one of the regulations imposed by the B.C. government in 2003 that is being reviewed by Gordon Macatee, the new B.C. Ferry Commissioner. Another is the mandate to move toward a user-pay system, which has resulted in fuel surcharges along with higher fares on BC Ferries’ 25 salt-water routes.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said he has heard loud and clear from ferry users that they’ve had enough of big increases, and he wants “a primary focus on affordability” to consider tourism and other business as well as residents.

BC Ferries CEO David Hahn has said the mandate of the quasi-independent Crown corporation and its current public subsidy could result in a doubling of rates for some routes in the coming years, and substantial increases across the fleet.

Lekstrom said he doesn’t accept that, but he wouldn’t comment on the possibility of increasing the provincial subsidy.

BC Ferries is returning to fuel surcharges in June as fuel prices have soared, and has requested rate increases for next spring. Lekstrom said the fuel surcharges will go ahead.

BC Ferries is seeking rate increases of about four per cent on major routes and eight per cent on others to take effect next year. Lekstrom said he is considering legislation to allow temporary relief before the spring legislative session ends June 2.

Macatee’s review is to be complete at the end of September.