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

Harrison Festival fundraiser dance to have ’70s theme and features Chilliwack band

Chilliwack band The Vacationers to perform at May 31 Harrison Festival Society’s fundraising concert

Seabird Island opens 50th annual festival

The weekend festival will see First Nations teams compete in soccer, three-pitch and canoe races

Lofty plans for Chilliwack school district revealed

Chilliwack school district draws up plan to add 2,900 student seats in five years

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

Chilliwack’s pediatric observation unit gets financial shot from trades workers

Unions and contractors donate more than $30,000 to Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Police say it’s “impressive” no arrests were made after Raptors celebrations

Toronto will play the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors next

Semis catch fire at wrecker off Highway 1 in west Abbotsford

Crews called to scene at around 2 p.m., finding up to six semis that had caught fire at the wrecker

Social media giants in hot seat as politicians consider regulations in Ottawa

Committee members will also grill representatives from Facebook, Twitter

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

The Chuckegg Creek fire is raging out of control about three kilometres southwest of the town

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border

Mistrial declared in Jamie Bacon murder plot trial

Bacon was on trial for counselling to commit the murder of Person X

B.C. VIEWS: Money-laundering melodrama made for TV

Public inquiry staged to point fingers before 2021 election

Canadian homebuyers escaping high housing costs by moving to secondary cities

In British Columbia, exurbs have grown in the Hope Valley and Kamloops

Most Read