Ministry of Attorney General: Report issues broad recommendations for ferry system

VICTORIA – BC Ferry Commissioner Gordon Macatee delivered his review of the Coastal Ferry Act to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Blair Lekstrom on Tuesday.

The report contains 24 major recommendations for government, BC Ferries, ferry users and other stakeholders, all intended to better balance the interests of ferry users with the long-term financial sustainability of BC Ferries and the broader interests of B.C. taxpayers.

BC Ferries is one the largest ferry corporations in the world and, while it has made significant improvements recently, it needs to continue with efforts to minimize costs and generate more revenue. The report identifies that the ferry system is currently facing challenges, which are only expected to get larger in the years ahead.

Declining ridership and financial losses in the current year, coupled with substantial capital investment requirements for fleet renewal and terminal upgrades, is putting strain on the financial sustainability of BC Ferries. Ferry users consider further large fare increases to be unaffordable and are concerned that the operator is not sufficiently accountable. The Coastal Ferry Act, and its guiding principles, is not perceived to be giving consideration to the interests of ferry users.

The review clearly indicates that all of the principle stakeholders will need to be part of the solution in order to achieve a ferry system which is both affordable and financially sustainable. Specifically, ferry users will need to be receptive to changes in how services and levels of service are delivered; BC Ferries needs to accept additional oversight and accountability measures, and will have to focus even more on cost control and new sources of
revenue; and the Province needs to define a vision for the future of ferry services and should consider additional financial support to ensure the system’s sustainability.