Those pricey islands in the stream

The pandora's box of B.C. Ferries costs has been opened

BC Ferries’ newest ships at Swartz Bay terminal: the main routes make a profit

Carolyn Grant

A public consultation process is about to begin on the B.C. Ferry Service. Faced with declining ridership and rising costs, the B.C. government is asking for public input to inform decisions about service adjustments that will ensure coastal ferry services are sustainable and able to meet the unique needs of coastal communities.

Essentially, ferry users are going to be consulted on which routes could be eliminated, or severely cut back, in order to save some $26 million a year. There is also the looming prospect of having to replace the fleet with newer vessels at some point,  hopefully with a little more research than that time the brain trust decided fast ferries were the answer.

Now I doubt that they are going to come this far inland to ask me for an opinion, but you’ll be happy to know that I am prepared to provide one anyway.

Taxpayer contributions to B.C.’s ferry service are $180 million this year. Some of that money is mine so I feel compelled to offer my two cents. What will we offer when the penny is phased out, by the way?

Now on first hearing of this consultative process I couldn’t help but think of what I paid for my last ferry trip, just last month as I headed to Vancouver Island to visit family.

I paid $63.10 each way. If you have an extra passenger in your car, add another $14.85 each way. That’s $77.95 each way. Commercial vehicles pay $5.60 per foot. If you are on one of the flagship ferries, “Spirit of British Columbia” or “Spirit of Vancouver Island”, your car joins 469 other vehicles and 2,100 passengers. At $63.10 plus $14.85 per person each way. Or $5.60 per foot commercial.

You do the math. No, seriously, you do the math, it makes my brain hurt.

How can a ferry corporation not make money charging that much, with that many vehicles and people aboard? Not to mention what they charge in the gift shop for a deck of BC Ferry playing cards.

The answer is, they can make money. The Vancouver to Victoria and Nanaimo routes, from either Tsawwassen or Horseshoe Bay make millions.

It’s the smaller routes that are in trouble, despite being subsidized by the larger, money-making routes. BC Ferries has 35 vessels servicing 48 locations on B.C.’s coast. Yes, the island-dwellers are at the root of the problem, those folk who insist on dwelling behind the back of beyond, so as to be free throw a pot, or plant it. No, no, don’t write me any nasty letters about your aunt on Cortez Island. I know island dwellers are great people. Unfortunately, transporting these great people from one island to another to the mainland is costing a great deal of money that BC Ferries doesn’t have.

So they want to consult with coastal people and island dwellers about how much pain they are prepared to put up with in order to continue to live a two-ferry trip from the mainland.

The government consultation will ask residents if they support cable ferries, passenger-only service, bridges, property-tax increases or fuel-tax hikes to support ferry service.

It’s a difficult situation. You can’t ask people to move simply because the only route off their island is too expensive to service. You can’t build a bridge linking every island, although there are a few places a bridge may be the answer.

But one thought keeps occurring to me. People who depend solely on ferry service for access to the mainland are paying through the nose for it. And people who have alternate routes but may enjoy a ferry ride across, say Kootenay Lake, on a lovely summer day, don’t pay a dime. BC’s interior ferry routes are free.

There’s an answer here somewhere. What could I be missing?

Carolyn Grant is the Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin

Just Posted

Snowfall warning for Kootenay and Paulson passes

Up to 30 cm expected in mountain passes Saturday and Sunday.

Monkey Do’s Childcare talks expansion, government funding

The B.C. Government has been working to improve childcare in the province… Continue reading

Moose tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in northwest Montana

This is the first time the disease has been detected in the species in Montana

Max’s Place celebrates 25 years in business

On Friday, Nov. 15 Max’s Place, a beloved Cranbrook bakery and coffee… Continue reading

Family of man missing for three years issues plea for information

Daniel Curtis Ladd was last seen leaving his home in Cranbrook in August 2016

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

Maddison Yetman had been looking forward to voting in her first federal election since junior high school

Rowing Canada, UVic investigate celebrated coach for harassment, abuse

Lily Copeland says she felt intimidated and trapped by Williams

Cleanup in the works after tanker truck fire leads to oil spill in B.C.’s Peace region

The province said the majority of the spilled oil likely burned away in the fire.

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

Dr. Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time

MacLean says “Coach’s Corner is no more” following Cherry’s dismissal from Hockey Night

Cherry had singled out new immigrants in for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Dallas Smith, Terri Clark to perform on CP Holiday Train’s B.C. stops

Annual festive food bank fundraiser rolling across province from Dec. 11 to 17

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

Most Read