April 3, 2019 8:55 pm

Provincial government aiming for greater transparency with BC Ferries

File photo of a BC Ferries vessel on the open water.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Keith Levit
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The B.C. government is looking to improve transparency at BC Ferries, especially when it comes to decisions about building new vessels.

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena introduced legislation on Wednesday that increases the number of BC Ferry Authority directors appointed by government from two to four, in order to bring a greater public interest perspective to the role of BC Ferries’ shareholders.

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“One of the best examples we have seen recently is the Northern Sea Wolf, where it was very clear the public interest was not at the heart of any of that decision making,” Trevena said. “It was political decision making that hurt coastal communities, it hurt First Nation communities, it hurt the tourism sector.

“I think there is a real desire from many people to see ferries built in Canada.”

READ MORE: Province to restore most coastal BC Ferries routes cut in 2014, starting April 1

The 19-year-old Northern Sea Wolf was purchased in Greece and brought to B.C. in late 2017. The 246-foot-long vessel had to go through upgrading to meet Canadian regulations.

The cost of the ferry has increased 14.9 per cent from original estimates to $64 million. The ferry is set to be put in action to run between Port Hardy and Bella Coola, but for now, it isn’t ready.

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The ferry was needed in part because the previous government cancelled the route between Port Hardy at the north end of Vancouver Island and Bella Coola in 2013. With the route gone, BC Ferries sold the Queen of Chilliwack.

The government’s new legislation also requires the BC Ferries commissioner to prioritize public interest when regulating ferry services, including consideration of the Province’s greenhouse gas emission targets.

If the legislation passes it will expand the definition of executive at BC Ferries to include vice-presidents, providing greater transparency and oversight of executive compensation.

READ MORE: BC Ferries need to go slower, quieter, NEB says in Trans Mountain decision

“British Columbians deserve a ferry service model that puts people first,” Trevena said.

“People living in coastal communities depend on the vital service provided by BC Ferries, but for many years they experienced service cuts and climbing fares. Our amendments to the Coastal Ferry Act will put people at the heart of decision making.”

The government has made a number of other changes at BC Ferries, including restoring sailings on the majority of ferry routes that were cut in 2014 and providing funding to BC Ferries to reduce fares on smaller and northern routes by 15 per cent.

The freezing of fares on major routes was another such

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