BRITISH COLUMBIA

BC Ferries Should Be Returned To Provincial Government Control: MLA

02/24/2015 02:54 EST | Updated 04/26/2015 05:59 EDT
A.Davey/Flickr
One of BC Ferry's marvelous car and passenger ferries emerges from the late-morning haze on a run out of Tsawwassen on the BC mainland just south of Vancouver. If I had to guess, I'd say this vessel is bound for Swartz Bay, which serves Victoria and the much of the southern end of Vancouver Island. That run takes just over an hour - plenty of time for a nice meal, a good snooze, or catching up on your iPod or your reading. In good weather, the scenery is great. Some Canadians grumble about their ferry system, though whether with justification or baselessly, I wouldn't try to say . But to this American, the BC ferries are a marvel of efficiency, speed, reliability, service and, in the case of the largest ferries - comfort and dining facilities that make the Washington Ferry System look like it belongs in the developing world - the Congo River, perhaps? After getting used to seeing the white and shining BC Ferries plying the waters of the Strait of Georgia, the Gulf Islands, and the Inside Passage, I shudder with embarrassment when the old rust-stained Washington State Ferry rumbles into Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. And my stomach rebels when I compare the meager assortment of foil wrapped burgers and hot dogs available on Washington State Ferries to the cornucopia of food choices on long-haul BC ferries and even at some BC Ferry terminals. As for this photo, I took it with a telephoto lens with an effective focal length of 600.0mm. In other words, we were far, far apart and in no danger whatsoever of colliding. Our navigation system has a predictive function that makes cruising through busy ferry and shipping lanes much safer and less stressful. For one thing, it picks up transmissions that aren't line-of-sight, so it can literally see around corners.
VICTORIA - A resident of British Columbia's Sunshine Coast has delivered a petition signed by more than 21,000 people, demanding more government control of BC Ferries.

Laural Eacott of Powell River said Tuesday in Victoria that rising ferry fares prompted her to start the online petition, noting she can no longer afford to travel to Metro Vancouver or Vancouver Island.

The petition urges the government to shift the quasi-private BC Ferries into the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to help reduce costs and fares.

"It's not working," said Eacott, holding the thick stack of papers tabled at legislature. "It's just so frustrating to hear that fares are going up again. The ridership is just going to keep dropping."

Vicki Huntington, an independent member of the legislature, tabled Eacott's petition.

"B.C.'s ferries are vital to the timely and safe passage of British Columbian and visitor alike," Huntington said.

"They are crucial to our economic well-being and directly link our major road networks. Ferries have become an extension of our highway infrastructure."

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

"The underlying financial challenges have nothing to do with whether it's part of government or not part of government, which is why our vision which I laid out a year ago is focused on a wide array of different measures to get ferries to a place of long-term affordability and sustainability," he said.

BC Ferries was part of the government highway system decades ago before becoming a Crown corporation. Shortly after the Liberals were elected in 2001, it was transformed into a private company that received a taxpayer subsidy.

Ferries fares are scheduled to increase in April.

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Winter In B.C., February 2015