British Columbia

Government control won't fix BC Ferries' problems says Bowen Island rep

BC Ferries should be part of the province's highway system, but government control isn't the answer, says the Bowen Island representative on the advisory committee overseeing the transportation service.

Alison Morse says BC Ferries should be managed as a highway but doesn't want government to take over

The free passes enjoyed by BC Ferries employees may be cut, after B.C.'s minister of transportation said the company must do whatever it takes to trim its budget.

BC Ferries should be part of the province's highway system, but government control isn't the answer, says the Bowen Island representative on the advisory committee overseeing the transportation service.

A petition with 20,000 signatures was presented to the B.C. legislature on Tuesday, calling for the Ministry of Transportation to take back control of BC Ferries. The province handed BC Ferries over to a private company in 2002. 

The petition notes that people are frustrated with service cuts and fare increases. They want the government to reduce costs and fares by managing BC Ferries the way it does with inland ferries and provincial highways.

Alison Morse, the Bowen Island representative on the BC Ferries advisory committee says the system is vital to Vancouver Island and coastal communities which rely on the ferries to deliver goods and services. But in an interview with CBC, Morse said changing BC Ferries' governance structure is not the answer.

"For me, the issue is accepting it's a vital part of the highway system and funding it accordingly and sitting down with the communities and coming up with long-term plan to implement the vision," she told B.C. Almanac's Gloria Macarenko.

Ferry service was first operated by The Hudson's Bay Company from the mid 1800s to 1901 when Canadian Pacific Railway took over the ferry service across the Strait of Georgia between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria, a journey that took five hours.

A private company Black Ball Line started offering services between Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver and Departure Bay in Nanaimo beginning in the early 1950s and then services to the Sunshine Coast. 

Premier W.A.C. Bennett started the British Columbia Ferry Authority in 1958 bringing the service under mandate from the provincial government.The B.C. Liberals handed it over to a private company in 2002.

Independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, who presented the petition in Victoria on Tuesday, said the Liberal government should at least explore the idea of shifting BC Ferries into the transportation ministry.

"At some point, the government has to realize a ferry system so important and integral to the British Columbian lifestyle as BC Ferries cannot be the profit-oriented, entrepreneurial organization that you would like it to be," she said. "It is going to be a fiscally expensive operation and we are saying that that ferry system is part of the highway infrastructure."

Transportation Minister Todd Stone says he respects the concerns of the people who signed the petition, but he's not about to steer BC Ferries back to government.

To hear the full interview with Vicki Huntington and Alison Morse, click on the audio labelled: Should B.C. resume control of BC Ferries?

With files from The Canadian Press


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