A Green Party government would reinstate B.C. Ferries as a Crown corporation and undertake a full review of its operations, according to leader Sonia Furstenau.
Speaking during a campaign stop in Brentwood Bay on Monday, Furstenau said it is time for the ferry system to get away from the for-profit model and focus on ensuring it meets the needs of the coastal community it is meant to serve.
Furstenau said when a system is designed to make a profit, all decisions are made with profit in mind. In the case of B.C. Ferries, she believes all decisions should be made to ensure people have a reliable service that can be counted on.
“We make investments in our transportation networks like roads and transit because we recognize that they are essential for peoples’ mobility and are about opening up economic opportunity,” she said. “We need to stop pretending that ferries should, or could, be run with a profit motive and bring their focus back to the essential services they provide to our communities.”
B.C. Ferries was established as an independent commercial organization in 2003 after 26 years as a Crown corporation.
The change was made to allow B.C. Ferries to operate as a business and make long-term decisions on capital improvements and vessel procurement without being subject to the politics of the day. It was also no longer reliant on the whim of government to set rates or spend money on infrastructure.
But Furstenau suggests the for-profit system has not been responsive to the needs of people living in the coastal communities.
She said people need a system that is more reliable, more affordable, offers increased passenger service, an improved reservation system, and increased frequency of sailings in the summer season to ensure locals are not frozen out of using the system when tourist traffic increases.
“We need to make sure residents of coastal communities can count on it,” she said, adding it that means adding more service then the government would add more service.
If B.C. Ferries once again became a Crown corporation, its costs would be spread among all taxpayers rather than the user-pay system that currently exists.
The NDP has said it will make B.C. Ferries more accountable to its customers by improving service at peak times, allocating more space to reservations and allowing walk-on reservations.
In its platform, the B.C. Liberal Paryt says it will review ferry schedules with a goal of hourly service on high-frequency routes.