Liberals gambling on future of B.C. Ferries

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VICTORIA– The Liberal government has announced deep cuts to ferry routes, a callous cut to seniors’ discounts and plans to raise extra cash through slot machines, once again showing they don’t understand the critical importance of B.C.’s ferry system, say New Democrats.

“For years, we have been pressing the government to create a long-term vision for B.C. Ferries,” said New Democrat ferries critic Claire Trevena. “Today, we got a frightening look at that long-term vision – a ferry system run like a corporate cruise line, with out-of-control fares, dropping ridership, exorbitant pay for executives, insufficient services on all but the busiest routes, and a culture that values slot-machine players over families.”

These cuts follow last week’s announcement that rather than scrapping bonuses for B.C. Ferries executives, the Liberals had signed off on a plan that would allow executives and managers to continue to receive their bonuses as part of their salaries, said Trevena.

“The Liberal government has stalled for years on fixing the problems at B.C. Ferries while the corporation’s debt rose, and ridership fell. Now, their only idea seems to be trying to raise funds through on-board slot machines and an uncaring plan to cut discounts for seniors, making it harder for families to keep in touch. Seniors on fixed incomes will be disproportionately affected by these changes,” said Trevena.

“While Minister Todd Stone called the cuts a tough decision, it seems the government has a far easier time being tough on seniors, and on people living in ferry-dependent communities like Port Hardy and Powell River, than on corporate executives. And while he claimed to realize that fares are already past the tipping point, he also admitted they would continue to rise for years to come.”

Trevena said today’s announcement is more evidence that the Liberals have mismanaged the ferries system since they brought in the Coastal Ferry Act in 2003.

“Our ferries are not riverboat casinos. They are integral pieces of our province’s infrastructure and critical to our economy. These service cuts will have a serious impact, and they’re only the beginning,” said Trevena. “Yet the Liberals are not scrambling for solutions. They are not looking for better models. They are not changing course. They are standing back and allowing this system to deteriorate into something that barely resembles a public service.”

Trevena said this announcement is another example of the Liberal government’s mismanagement of the corporation, and its uncaring cuts throughout the province to services for B.C.’s most vulnerable.

“This is a government with no plan, no ideas, and a serious compassion deficit. Nowhere is this more apparent than in this approach to the ferry system.”