Letter on ferry fare hikes from Claire Trevena to the Minister of Transportation

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New Democrat spokesperson for transportation and ferries, Claire Trevena, sent Minister of Transportation Todd Stone the following letter expressing her concern about the Liberal government’s reckless ferry fare increases.

Dear Minister Stone,

Two weeks ago, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) issued a thoughtful policy paper on the social and economic impact of continual fare increases on BC Ferries, as well as recent reductions in services to coastal communities.

As you are aware, it indicated a substantial loss to provincial GDP of $2.3 billion and a $603 million loss of revenue in the municipal, provincial and federal tax base.

People across the province welcomed the report as it was the first systematic analysis of the impacts of your government’s policies for BC Ferries since 2002.

Many people, myself included, expected that your ministry would have done an economic analysis ahead of the introduction of the Coastal Ferries Act. While this clearly did not happen, people expected your government to have learned from its mistakes and conducted an economic impact study before severe cuts were made last spring.

It’s unfortunate that this was not done as it would have highlighted what we’ve been hearing in communities along the coast. Businesses are hurting and communities are suffering because of more than a decade of this government’s irresponsible approach to ferries.

The lack of any analysis or study by your government on the importance of BC Ferries to the economy of the province exhibits financial incompetence.

Your response so far to the UBCM report has also been disappointing. The first anyone heard from your ministry after the report was published was the announcement that a study would be done on whether a bridge could be built to Gabriola Island. This, we were told, was because 500 residents had petitioned your ministry for such a study to be done.

If you responded as swiftly and positively to all petitions, perhaps we would not be in our current situation. There have been tens of thousands of people who have put their names to petitions demanding a freeze and roll back of fares on BC Ferries and a resumption of full service. Further, the concept of a bridge is in direct contravention of Islands Trust policy and the Official Community Plan of Gabriola. Is the Ministry of Transportation overruling local government planning jurisdiction?

Up until this report, we have had no systemic analysis of the impact of your government’s new policy. It is surely essential in evaluating, monitoring and modifying policy that such research take place. Yet there is no offer for government research in your letter and you offer no flexibility or willingness to look at any new approach to the management, funding and operation of our marine highway.

It is my hope your ministry will begin to work collaboratively with communities and stakeholders to tackle the recommendations made in the report.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Claire Trevena

New Democrat spokesperson for ferries