The decision by premier John Horgan to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges as of September 1 will save regular Lower Mainland commuters upwards of $1,500 per year, and commercial vehicles even more. Meanwhile, our marine highway system will cost us the same until at least April when ferry fares will be reduced by a paltry 15 per cent. Oh, and senior passengers will again ride for free Monday to Thursday.
The reason why bridge tolls can be eliminated seemingly overnight but we have to wait the better part of a year for a 15 percent discount is the Coastal Ferry Act, and it is time the provincial government finds a way to eliminate it and its 60-year Coastal Ferry Services Contract. The act and contract allow BC Ferry Authority, an independent capital corporation, the sole authority to administer BC Ferries, an incorporated company in BC.
BC Ferry Coalition is a community-based citizens group and chair Jef Keighley is correct when he says the province should be able to direct BC Ferries to implement fare reductions immediately, yet the NDP's line is that lengthy negotiations have to take place with the quasi-public BC Ferries corporation before any changes can be made.
BC Ferry Coalition works with local governments and coastal and mainland communities to improve ferry service and lobby government to make necessary changes. In Keighley's words, "This is not a negotiation."
If Horgan can follow through on a campaign promise to eliminate unpopular bridge tolls, causing all British Columbians to share in billions of dollars in debt, then why can't he do something significant about BC Ferries?
Overhauling BC Ferries' fares and schedules would affect all British Columbians, yet campaign promises around ferries were underwhelming.
Doing away with tolls in the city does not serve the transportation interests of all British Columbians, especially those who, like Powell River residents, rely on a marine highway.
Real change would be instating a one-way ferry fee for return travel to Comox, giving us back those much-missed sailings on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and cutting overall fares significantly. And how about a schedule to and from Vancouver that actually works?
Jason Schreurs, publisher/editor