Merge ferries with highways: NDP
Oct 22, 2013 / 7:40 am
The B.C. NDP ferries critic has returned from a fact-finding trip to Washington State, where fares are cheaper, executives are paid less, and ferries are considered part of the highway system.
North Island MLA Claire Trevena spent last week touring Washington State Ferries and told CTV News she managed to travel six different routes for a total of $97, even with her car.
“That includes some routes that are over an hour and a half long, so I think that’s significant,” Trevena said.
By comparison, travelling one-way from Tsawwassen to Victoria with a car costs an adult almost $67, and booking a reservation adds at least $15 extra to the total.
Trevena acknowledged the systems are different, but said B.C. could still learn from the Washington government’s example of treating ferries like tolled roads, charging fares that don’t make people think twice about boarding.
“The designation of having a ferry as part of the highway system has helped Washington ferries, given it that stability and ensured that fares can keep low,” she said.
BC Ferries has meanwhile hiked fares 45 per cent on major routes and 85 per cent on minor ones since 2003, according to the NDP.
Premier Christy Clark said she agrees that changes need to be made at BC Ferries, particularly surrounding executive bonuses.
“I’m not happy with these constant reports about the remuneration at the top of BC Ferries,” she told reporters Monday. “I certainly want to get a resolution on it. I’m not happy.”
The cash-strapped corporation came under fire in August for hiking executive bonuses amid talk of service cuts.
In the fiscal year that ended in March, BC Ferries’ chief financial officer Robert Clarke received $133,711 in incentive pay, more than double the $60,352 he was given the year before.
Clark’s Transportation Minister, Todd Stone, gave the BC Ferries Board of Directors 30 days to address executives’ six-figure bonuses, but the deadline came and went without any developments.
Trevena said issues of bonuses and pricey fares could be addressed by amending the Coastal Ferries Act, but any legislative changes will have to wait as the BC Liberals have opted not to hold a fall sitting.
In the meantime, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has gathered more than 500 signatures on a petition calling on Stone to make BC Ferries more accountable.
“When you find out that the three top executives at Washington State Ferries make less than the single top guy at BC Ferries, that’s when people stood up and said enough is enough, we want this to change,”said the Federation’s Jordan Bateman.
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