The province’s $180 million annual subsidy to BC Ferries may go up in the future, but it won’t be reduced in the years ahead, Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Wednesday.
Stone said he’s encouraged by BC Ferries Commissioner Gord Macatee’s decision to set rate increase caps of no more than 1.9 per cent for the next four years. That’s a quarter of the rate increases that were being considered before BC Ferries cut 7,000 low-performing sailings from its fleet and pursued other cost-cutting measures, Stone said.
Despite those sailing cuts, which took effect in April 2014, total passenger volume on the BC Ferries fleet is up slightly in the current year. The increase on major routes is 0.64 per cent year-to-date, which doesn’t sound like much but is substantial on the high-volume routes, Stone said.
The increase comes after a long decline in BC Ferries ridership that started with the U.S. financial crisis in 2008.
Stone also ruled out closing one of the two large ferry terminals at Nanaimo, despite Macatee’s instruction to BC Ferries to explore that option. He left open the possibility that the Crofton terminal for Saltspring Island passengers could be combined with either the Nanaimo or Duke Point terminal.
Stone said he is in discussions with the federal government to increase its subsidy to BC Ferries, which is substantially lower than East Coast ferries, and to review minimum crew requirements set by Transport Canada.