Petition pushes for BC Ferries to be made part of highway system

BC Ferries vessel Spirit of Vancouver Island passes between Galiano Island and Mayne Island while travelling from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

More than 20,000 British Columbians have signed a petition to make BC Ferries part of the province’s Transportation and Highways Ministry. The online petition was presented in the B.C. Legislature on Monday by Vancouver Island Green Party MLA Adam Olsen.

“For most users in British Columbia, driving on the highways is pretty affordable. The idea of bringing the ferries back in would deem it is part of the highway structure and would not add an extra charge to British Columbians who live in coastal communities,” said Olsen. “There is a fairness issue here.”

The main concern from advocates is the cost of operating BC Ferries as a Crown corporation. Strathcona Regional District director Jim Abrams has been leading the charge to change the governance model.

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“We just need to provide the essential service,” said Abrams. “We need more managers, we need more workers on the boat. The ministry can manage what is there.”

The provincial government is currently reviewing BC Ferries, but it is not looking at the governance model. Instead, the focus, for now, is on access and how much people pay to board the ferry.

“I live on one of the islands and what I hear very clearly from people who use the ferries is that it should be affordable and accessible,” said Transportation Minister Claire Trevena. “We need to make sure people use it at an affordable rate and the schedules are accessible to people.”

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