BC Ferries

Reporters as stenographers

Two years ago, the corporate media published headlines about ferry subsidies.

This report, which came during fiscal year 2013, was enough to stir the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation into action. They warned that subsidies to business might have to be cut if government wasted more money on citizens. CTF did not need to worry, the BC Liberals’ largesse to ferry users was less than it seemed. Rob Shaw repeated the $80 million claim again in December 2012, after a year-end interview with Premier Clark. In fact, that fiscal year showed a provincial subsidy increase of $23.8 M, which is less than 30% of the promise.

There has been no growth in provincial ferry subsidies for more than two years. Government contributions were $2 million less in the 12 months ended March 31, 2014 than in the year before. In Quarter 1 of the 2015 fiscal year, federal and provincial support to BC Ferries is 1.9% higher than in Quarter 1 of the preceding year but 2.1% less than in Quarter 1 of FY 2012.

The following is from the 2014 Annual Report.

Something that is seldom mentioned in discussions of ferry subsidies is that they are mostly something else. Most of the payments to BC Ferries by the provincial and federal governments are “Transportation Fees” by which governments ensure service to lightly populated coastal regions. Prince Rupert, for example, is attached to more than $50 million in annual transportation fees. Two thirds of BC Ferries traffic is on four unsubsidized routes out of Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay.

In fact, many Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast residents may pay too much because their main routes to the lower mainland are also subsidizing north coast and Gulf Island traffic. The choice to subsidize ferries to underpopulated areas is a political choice – a good one, too – but the entire economy should pay for the subsidy, not people using ferries in and out of Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen.

Categories: BC Ferries

6 replies »

  1. Just like these subsidies the Liberals are truly “something else”.

    ? Typo re the $50+ million subsidy should be for Prince Rupert not George?


  2. Todd Stone doesn't agree with you. He believes the user should pay for ferries and bridges, but not for highways. He also thinks that the Federal gas tax should be used for ferries. Nevermind the fact that municipalities get gas tax, but most ferries are in Regional District areas, AND the rules are that the Fed Gas Tax has to be used for infrastructure, not ferries. Unbelievable.

    Leanne Rathje


  3. A quick check of the realty map of the southern Gulf Islands, from Sidney to Gabriola Islands, shows over 700 properties for sale.
    I wonder how many of those are on the market simply because it is too expensive to get to them.


  4. Further to my last comment, I would like to relocate to Sidney but with the current fares and anticipated future hikes, I have to consider that it might turn comfortable retirement into a hermit lifestyle.

    I’ve been watching the market closely and, contrary to what the Capital Region Real Estate Board says, prices are dropping not rising. Some listings have recently sold for 20 and 30 thousand below list.

    And Norm, if you take a look at the market in Powell River, prices are closer to the 1980s market and there are hundreds of listings there as well.


  5. The BCFS Inc., the cloaking device deployed to keep the public in the dark as to what the government's doing to the publicly-owned ferry system, was instructed by the BC Liberals to always prefix our little ferry with the words “money-losing”. Always, without fail. I have asked all the fancy consultants sent here to ignore Islanders' complains how a part of a system be statistically singled out of the system purely for propaganda purposes? During the last BC election I even heard an Northeastern BC Liberal MLA ask rhetorically why his constituents should “subsidize” ferries they seldom take.

    It's stuff like this that makes me wish we had John Horgan leading the charge. I asked the NDP candidate here about it and, incredibly, she could not come up with the most obvious rebuttal to this “subsidy” bullshit—everyone in the room could hardly believe it—had to ask the question again and again, until finally she admitted she hadn't got the official policy notes from head office yet and then went off onto a speech about listening to every side of an issue before deciding what to do.

    We asked, almost in spontaneous unison,”why not just tell us the NDP will get rid of BC Ferries Inc. once and for all!” —but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Meeting was over.


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