RDN supports Trust request for 25% reduction in minor route fares

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, July 7 2015

The Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) is supporting in principle the Islands Trust request to the provincial government to bring in a 25 per cent reduction in fares for minor ferry routes.

Howard Houle, RDN Director for Area B (Gabriola, Mudge and DeCourcy) said, “I would like to thank the RDN board for supporting Area B and the Islands Trust in their work to bring a 25 per cent decrease in price of travel on the minor routes of BC Ferries. The UBCM [Union of BC Municipalities] report that was released last year clearly indicates that high ferry fees hurt the BC economy and all the people of the coast.”

Houle was referring to a report issued by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities which reported a loss of $2.3 billion to local, provincial and federal taxpayers over the 10-year period of 2003 (when the BC Liberals privatized the BC Ferries Corporation) to 2013.

This past June, the Islands Trust Council passed a motion asking the Province of British Columbia to invest $11 to $14 million annually for four years to reduce fares on all BC Ferries’ minor routes. This would, according to the Trust Council, allow the Province to lower fares on BC Ferries’ minor routes (including Gabriola) by 25 per cent. The request was being timed by the Trust to influence negotiations for BC Ferries’ Coastal Ferry Services contract from 2016 to 2020. In May 2015, the Islands Trust hired Perrin Thorau & Associates, a public policy consulting firm with expertise in BC Ferries’ markets, to calculate the cost of lowering fares on all minor ferry routes. 

The consultants built a model using recent BC Ferries’ operating results and fare information, allowing examination of how ridership will rebound in response to lower fares. The consultants calculated that $11 to $14 million is needed annually to reduce fares by 25 per cent from today’s prices, on all minor routes on BC’s coast.

Responding at the time of the Trust’s release of the request, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said, “Any additional funding to further reduce fares would have to be balanced against many competing interests across government, including health, education and other social services.”

On June 25, 2015, Jim Abram, Chair of the Strathcona Regional District, sent a letter to the Provincial Government, also asking for a 25 per cent reduction in fares on the minor routes, but effective immediately.

In the letter Abram said, “In addition to the social and economic issues facing island communities as a result of escalating ferry fares, the Strathcona Regional District believes that there is a strong business case for provincial intervention to ensure the viability of our provincial economy. We sincerely encourage you to show strong leadership in solving this problem as our local and provincial economy depends on it.”