16,000 people sign petition urging province to bring BC Ferries under government control

People who live in ferry-dependent communities are calling on the NDP government to bring BC Ferries back under government control to help reduce fares and improve service.

NDP government reviewing operations at BC Ferries, but not looking at governance

The previous Liberal goverment turned BC Ferries from a Crown corporation into an independent commercial organization in 2002. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

People who live in ferry-dependent communities on the B.C. coast are calling on the province to bring BC Ferries into the Ministry of Transportation.

A petition with more than 16,000 signatures was delivered to legislature on Monday by Jim Abram, a Strathcona Regional District director and longtime advocate for B.C. ferry users.

Prices spiked and routes were cut back after the previous Liberal government turned BC Ferries from a Crown corporation into an independent commercial organization in 2003, he said.

Abram is calling for BC Ferries to be brought back under government control rather than returned to a Crown corporation.

"Please put BC Ferries back where it belongs in the Ministry of Transportation and highways and fund it accordingly," he said.

Putting BC Ferries under the Ministry of Transportation would allow the government to spread out the cost of operating the service to all taxpayers in the province, in the same way highways are paid for by everyone, Abram said.

"It's a matter of let's treat ferries like the marine highway that it is," he said. "I pay for highways I have never even seen."

As it stands, people who use the ferry pay for 100 per cent of the operational costs, he added.

Government sticks to operational review

Since forming government, the NDP has moved ahead with a campaign promise to freeze fares on major routes, reduce fares on minor routes by 15 per cent, and bring back a senior's discount.

It's also conducting a promised review of BC Ferries that will seek to identify improvements that can be made to the existing operations — but that review is not considering governance of the ferry system.

"[People] want it to be affordable and accessible, running the service they want. They don't really care where it is housed as long as it is affordable and accessible," said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena.

But Abram said the more than 16,000 signatures on the petition delivered to the legislature say otherwise.