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General · 29th September 2011
Jim Abram
Ed: Jim has been busy at the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) convention this week. Here is an article from today's Vancouver Sun:

Reduce ferry rates: delegates

Service needs to be maintained at current levels, province told

By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun

The provincial government should reduce BC Ferries fares and maintain service at the current level, B.C.'s municipal politicians said Wednesday.

A day after BC Ferries president David Hahn announced he is quitting in the face of having to bring in massive cutbacks to the service, delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention called for provincial intervention.

In a near-unanimous vote, delegates said the province should recognize coastal ferry services "as essential extensions of our public highway system". They called on the province to "ensure that the BC Ferry fares are reduced and core service levels are maintained at current levels" until the province brings in legislation recognizing the service as part of the provincial highway system.

Jim Abram, a director on the Strathcona Regional District, told delegates that regional districts up and down the coast are trying to stem an economic crisis that is causing an exodus of people from small coastal communities.

"We're working to deal with the crisis that has happened in all of our coastal communities where we are losing families, we're losing business, we're losing jobs. It is not sustainable."

In May the provincial government introduced legislation to put a fourper-cent cap on ferry fare increases on all routes for one year. During that time the B.C. Ferry Commission, which oversees ferry fare increases, is reviewing the plan and is supposed to report on "how to better balance the interests of ferry users and the financial sustainability needs of ferry operators," according to a UBCM note on the resolution.

Maintaining coastal ferry service has been a challenge for BC Ferries because it is not economically sustainable. But Port Clements Coun. Wally Cheer said his community on Haida Gwaii has no other alternative.

"I think I can speak for all the communities in Haida Gwaii, and all the other coastal communities dependent on BC Ferries for their freight and transportation, when we say with a common voice we cannot bear more BC Ferries increases," Cheer said.

"We depend upon ferries for most of our consumable items, and have seen cost of everything from milk to nuts and bolts increase proportionately when BC Ferries increases its rates."

Earlier this year Hahn proposed massive cuts to the system, including the elimination of 400 sailings.

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