One of the things BC Ferry (BCF) Commissioner Gordon Macatee and elected representatives believe is impeding the commissioner’s ability to make recommendations on how the corporation should proceed is the lack of a long-term vision.
And that is despite the fact that the Coastal Ferry Act says that one should be established, Trust Council Chair Sheila Malcolmson said at the Oct. 4 Local Trust Committee meeting at the WI Hall.
Malcolmson, who was reporting on her attendance at September’s Union of BC Municipalities convention, said she and regional district chairs from ferry-dependent communities met first with each other to discuss the impacts ferries have on their communities, and then with Macatee to discuss BCF operations. She said Macatee “is finding it hard to make fair recommendations around capital costs without actually knowing what ferry users want for their ferries”.
Currently BCF is simply going with the status quo, she said, “as opposed to looking at alternate fuels or what it is you want in the future … 50 years from now”.
Macatee gave them a 10 point list of Coastal Ferry Act amendments that have been introduced since he produced a report in the spring, Malcolmson said. Many of the changes were in line with changes that the Trust Council and Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) asked for, she said, “around him actually working with the public interest perspective rather than just for the benefit of the continuation of the ferry corporation”.
She said they also went through “a bunch of areas where local governments so far disagree with the recommendations of his report”.
After the meeting with Macatee, Malcolmson said, her group discussed what they wanted to say in a meeting scheduled with the Premier and the Minister of Transportation. She said overall the group was concerned “that the public consultation that was supposed to happen this summer on service levels and a long term vision of the ferry service hasn’t happened”. She said they agreed to argue that ferry fare increases be held off – either by having the Province chip in extra money or by pausing the fare increase process – until that consultation can happen.
Malcolmson said the premier cancelled her scheduled 15 minute meeting with the 10 regional district chairs, but the group did meet with the transportation minister the next morning. Asked to be one of the presenters, Malcolmson said she emphasised Trust Council’s position “that coastal community settlement patterns are based on ferry service and the expectation that is going to continue”.
Malcolmson said she also told the assistant deputy minister that it is “really becoming an increasing problem for communities that the Province has said they don’t want to meet with the FACC, and they don’t want to meet with local governments about what the consultation process will even look like in coastal communities”. She raised some chuckles when she said: “The assistant deputy minister said ‘well we’re too busy working on the consultation plan to meet with you’ ”.
She noted that the coastal chairs and the FACC have since been invited to meet with the Province.
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