B.C. Ferries charts a new course

The News embarks upon an investigation into beleaguered corporation

The Spirit of British Columbia churns through the waters of Active Pass en route from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen. B.C. Ferries is undertaking community consultation to help find ways of saving millions of dollars.

When B.C. Ferries was made an independent company in 2003, the minister in charge heralded the move as a cost-saving measure.

“(The province) wants B.C. Ferries to meet its potential, to sail on time, to have clean facilities, a good selection of food choices and friendly services and, of course, to remain affordable,” said then-transportation minister Judith Reid.

But fares have remained anything but affordable, increasing by an average of 80 per cent in the past eight years. At the same time, the corporation is still losing money – $16 million last year alone.

Facing an order from B.C. Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee to find $30 million from service cuts, the province will be gathering public input from communities that depend on ferry service as a lifeline, navigating the stormy waters of increasingly cash-strapped residents and frustrated commuters.

It’s a crisis Macatee acknowledged in his January 2012 report on the Coastal Ferry Act. “Current ferry fares and the proposed increases have reached the tipping point of affordability and are imposing significant hardship on ferry dependent communities,” he said.

As the provincial government launches its formal public consultation at coastalferriesengagement.ca, The News is taking a comprehensive look at B.C. Ferries in a four-part series. We’ll give an overview of the challenges that lie ahead in the wake of lower ridership, higher fares and year-over-year red ink on the company’s books.

First, we’ll tell you how we got here and where your money goes. Next, we’ll explore the impact of increasing fares on the major routes between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

Part three will look at the southern Gulf Islands and the potential impact of a looming reduction in sailings that will save an estimated $21 million.

In our final piece, we’ll look to the future of B.C. Ferries and find out what it can do to stay afloat.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Mayor David Screech says Camp Namegans has run its course

Break-in on private property in View Royal linked to homeless campers

Victoria’s U-bicycles move from dockless to virtual parking

The company seeks recommendations and feedback on where to have drop zones

Gery Lemon adds woman’s perspective to View Royal council

New council-elect ready to work with incumbent councillors and mayor

Women make up nearly 50 per cent of Greater Victoria councillors

Ten councils in Greater Victoria elected women for at least half of their seats

Federal carbon tax rebates will exceed the cost for most people affected

Officials say 70 per cent of people in those provinces will get back more than they end up paying out as fuel costs rise to incorporate the carbon tax.

Fast ferries from B.C. spotted in Egypt

Controversial aluminum BC Ferries vessels ’big white elephants covered in dust,’ eyewitness says

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Oct. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Canadian troops, families take shelter in hotel after Florida hurricane

Most of the Canadians were evacuated from the military base before Hurricane Michael

B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Garry Handlen has pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder of Monica Jack on May 6, 1978.

5 tips to keep trick-or-treaters safe this Halloween

BC Children’s Hospital has a few suggestions to keep Oct. 31 fun

B.C. man gets seven years in prison for baseball-bat attack on Kamloops teen

Kamloops man who beat Jessie Simpson into a coma has pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He was originally charged with attempted murder and assault with a weapon.

Time running out for TV debate on proportional representation

B.C. Liberal leader spars with Premier John Horgan over timing

Cougar spotted after Vancouver Island resident finds his decapitated cat

Reports of conservation officers actively looking for the predator in Port Hardy Tuesday afternoon

Most Read