Provincial government pledges $500 million to BC Ferries to mitigate fare hikes
The BC government has announced $500 million in new funding for BC Ferries to prevent rising fuel prices and inflation from causing fare increases over the next four years.
Prime Minister David Eby said the province decided to step in after recent submissions to the BC Ferries Commissioner predicted they would increase prices by more than 10 per cent in each of the next four years due to the impact of global inflation over the past 18 years would have months.
The province hopes the new funding will keep the annual increase in ferry tickets below three percent, although the final cost will be determined by the company’s commissioner.
“Every day people use BC Ferries to get to work, visit family and friends,” said Eby.
“We all depend on predictable and affordable service.”
Eby said the province’s “motorways of the sea” system is vital to BC’s transportation and a large increase in fares would put too much pressure on families and small businesses.
He added that it would also increase delivery costs for BC contractors and businesses, which would be passed on to consumers.
The funding announcement came a day after Eby announced another round of BC Affordability Credit, which he said would also help offset the cost of inflation as it marked 100 days at the provincial top.
Jill Sharland, interim president of BC Ferries, said in a statement the company is grateful for the government’s partnership and understanding of the complexities of operating one of the world’s largest ferry systems.
“This significant provincial funding supports necessary service improvements and infrastructure investments while keeping fares affordable for the traveling public and our commercial customers,” she said.
Slow transition to electrification
Transportation Secretary Rob Fleming, in an Esquimalt speech on Vancouver Island, emphasized that three-quarters of BC’s population live on the coast and rely on ferries for daily commutes, goods and services, and getting to doctor’s appointments.
Fleming said some of the new money going to the ferry company will be used to upgrade its fleet.
“By protecting fare affordability and supporting BC Ferries’ electrification, we will reduce the company’s fuel costs over time and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province,” he said, “while protecting the interests of ferry-dependent communities and.” of all ferry users protect British Columbia.”
Fleming said there are currently six hybrid vessels on the water, but they are not yet using battery power for the majority of their operations. He said BC Ferries had to divert funds from electrification during the pandemic, but the ferry company and the province will work together to build shore power charging infrastructure to speed up the transition.
“With the electrification of our ferry fleet comes clean energy jobs in BC,” added Fleming, explaining that the battery systems used in the hybrid vessels were developed in Richmond, BC
BC Ferries’ commissioner is expected to set a tentative increase in annual fares by March 31, with the final price increase for the next four years to be announced by September 30.