BC Ferries

Essential service – ferries or moviemaking?

In 2012, Premier Christy Clark declared that coastal ferry subsidies would not grow under her government:

“That is not a sustainable amount of money from taxpayers across the province. It’s just not. You can’t run a ferry system with that kind of level of subsidy forever.”

Although inaccurate, her words were prophetic. When Premier Clark spoke, the province provided BC Ferries with 24¢ of each revenue dollar. Now it is 20¢, although inland ferries continue to be fully funded by the government of BC.

BC Liberals have other priorities. One of them is providing film and video producers with subsidies. Those have tripled to $491 million since the Premier spoke about ferry supports being unsustainable.

Seeing the rapid rise of tax expenditures flowing to picture producers during the past three years is surprising. The BC industry made huge gains from the declining Canadian dollar, which meant other supports were less needed to pull work from Hollywood South. Perhaps someone in Victoria turned a dollar exchange graph upside down and concluded higher, rather than lower, subsidies were appropriate.

Another possibility is that in BC, Pay-to-Play politics determines policy. Liberals gain valuable supports from beneficiaries of film & video production; they gain little from people travelling regularly on ferry boats. Good Liberals cross above the Strait of Georgia, not on top of it.

There is another important political factor affecting ferry operations on the coast, not one that any recent provincial government has made a priority. Last year, Stephen Hume reported:

Atlantic Canada’s ferry passengers get 350 times the federal subsidies that ferry passengers in B.C. receive, a study prepared for the Union of B.C. Municipalities finds.

Federal funding for West Coast ferries relative to East Coast ferries shows that Marine Atlantic is subsidized $493 per passenger. BC Ferries’ federal subsidy is $1.41 per passenger, the analysis notes. Ferry travellers here get about 0.2 per cent of the federal financial support counterparts on the Atlantic get, although ferry use here is 20 times greater.

I won’t attempt a calculation but imagine the relative value of coastal ferry operations, with 27 million annual vehicle and passenger movements, compared to movie making. If both came to a halt, which would be considered the essential service?

Categories: BC Ferries, Taxation

4 replies »

  1. Norm, thank you for setting your sights on BC Ferries and BC Hydro. There can be little doubt that both entities are being set up to fail by this fascist, criminal, monstrosity of a government. I saw the ‘writing on the wall’ in 2004 when I took early retirement from BCF as they commenced their shell game of “privatization”. I also continue my fight with BC Hydro over their ‘Smart Meter’ fiasco by refusing to allow them to install one on my residence here on Denman Island and am paying dearly for this stand!

    I would love to see you investigate the boondoggle we have happening here with the cable ferry to Denman. This project was sold to us as costing $35M and has now reached $80M and likely will be $100M when all the hidden costs are factored in!

    Thank you, Norm, for your dedication to exposing the ongoing criminality of this BC Liberal government.

    Ernie T.


    • I’m happy to receive any detailed information about the cable ferry. I’ve followed the situation from afar and wondered if a battery powered ferry, as used in Norway, would have been a better solution to save fuel costs.

      There’s even a nearby power supply. Desmogblog reported that a “state-of-the-art gas thermal power plant in Campbell River sits idle 90 per cent of the time, but — under a contract that runs until April 2022 — BC Hydro is paying about $55-million a year…”


      • Norm, check out West Coast Ferries Forum under Baynes Sound Connector thread. Much good info. available there incl. a thread on a libel lawsuit brought against a retired BCF Master by a BCF executive and paid for by BCF over his negative comments re: the BSCon.
        As to the Norway solution, I have read about that ferry. Wonderful concept, using a bank of capacitors for power storage, but perhaps too complicated for BCF execs. to comprehend. Also it would not fit in with BCF plans to sell (give!) Route 21 to the brother of the former CFO for BCF (the one who owns the inland cable ferries). This, of course, is my take on it! (This is the same gentleman who, pursuant to his purchase of the route, was a passenger on board MV Queen of the North when she took the ground off Gill Island!)

        As to the CO-GEN plant in CR, I did not know that it was idled. Yes it would have been an excellent power supply to recharge the cap. bank for an electric prime mover. As it was, BC Hydro had to do major upgrades at Buckley Bay to supply the required power to run the hydraulic winch used to facilitate cable replacement.

        The more you dig into this boondoggle the thicker the plot becomes.

        Ernie T.


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