10/02/2012 04:28 EDT | Updated 12/02/2012 05:12 EST

BC Ferries advisor slams fare hikes

Representatives of ferry users in coastal communities say the planned fare increases of four per cent in each of the next three years are another example of neglect by government.

The B.C. Ferry Commission announced Monday that it has set a price cap of 4.1 per cent in 2013, 4.0 per cent in 2014, and 3.9 per cent in 2015. The price cap determines the maximum permitted weighted average fares for all route groups.

But Ferry Advisory Committee chairs are calling on the province to increase the subsidy to the Crown Corporation instead of relying on fare hikes and cuts to service to pay for operating and capital costs.

The province has hired a consultant to talk about the future of BC Ferries with coastal communities this fall.

But Evan Putterill, who chairs the advisory committee for the north and central coasts, calls the upcoming consultations "a joke."

"I have no faith that this consultation process is about creating a ferry vision," he said.

Putterill expects the consultants will tell coastal communities routes and sailings will be cut unless the communities agree to pay even higher fares than the increases announced Monday.

"This is a bad news story for government and they don't want to give the bad news out themselves, so they have hired a consultant to do that."

The province currently provides BC Ferries with about $150 million annually, while Ottawa contributes about $26 million a year.

In May the the province added a $79.5-million subsidy to be paid out over the next four years, starting with $46.5 million this year and moving between $10.5 million and $11.5 million over three years, but warned further fare hikes and service cuts were still inevitable.