British Columbia

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pledges $30 million a year to subsidize B.C. Ferries

The NDP currently holds five of the seven federal ridings on Vancouver Island — a place the Green Party is also looking to win more seats this election.

Singh made the announcement during a multi-day campaigning tour in B.C.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh takes in the sights after a media availability as he takes a ferry from Victoria to a campaign event in Vancouver on Saturday, Sept. 28. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is promising an annual $30 million in federal money to lower fares on B.C. Ferries if he's elected. 

Singh announced his plans Saturday morning while travelling on a ferry between Victoria, B.C., and Vancouver. He is campaigning for the fifth day in a row in the province, where he's also running for re-election in his own riding.  

"The ferries are incredibly important for people," Singh told reporters from the deck of the vessel. 

"We know that the cost of taking a ferry is a lot and it's difficult for a lot of families."

While the provincial government has brought in several measures to target ferry costs in recent years, like reducing fares and offering discounts for seniors, Singh said it's not enough. He described the system as "neglected" under the current federal government.  

The additional $30 million a year would double what the federal government currently contributes annually. 

Singh's promise is one of several targeted specifically at British Columbians, such more protection for the coastline and tackling speculation in the housing market.

Battleground Vancouver Island

Sanjay Jeram, a senior lecturer in political science at Simon Fraser University, said it's not by accident that Singh is focusing on West Coast promises during his campaign. 

"The NDP are cash-strapped so they're trying to target the ridings that they think they have a chance of holding and perhaps making some gains — and obviously Vancouver Island is a particular stronghold for them," he said. 

The NDP holds five out of seven of the seats on Vancouver Island. The island is also a prime area for the Green Party, which won its second federal seat there in the May byelection.

"The Greens have done well in terms of the vote percentage even in the ridings that they lost in the last general election," Jeram said. 

"Obviously, the Greens have the potential to take more than the two seats they currently have."

Long-time leader of the Green Party Elizabeth May said the NDP pledge of $30 million is "a bit less than a third" of what's in her party's plans for the ferries. 

"Our plan is supporting the ferries to transition away from fossil fuels, but it will support ferries and make them more affordable," she said. 

"At a national level, it's $100 million a year." 

She pointed out that B.C. is not the only province in need of ferry revamps. 

"Other regions of the country also have challenges with their ferries," she said. 

"It's part of our national transit system ... we need to focus on it, there is a role for the federal government."

With files from CHEK News