The current troubles faced by BC Ferries likely has less to do with the price of gas than with a failed model, says Scott Fraser.
The Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA said this week many factors come into play in regards to the ferry system’s financial woes, but the for-profit business model shouldn’t be overlooked.
“There certainly was a cost in building the new ferries in Germany, but I think the Auditor General’s report nailed it,” Fraser said. “He basically said that there is a failure in the current model of BC Ferries to take into account the public interest.”
Rather than responding to rising fuel prices, he said the former Crown Corporation appears to be pricing itself out of business.
“The cost has gone through the roof under the Liberals’ privatization model,” Fraser said. “It’s almost like a race to the bottom. Every time they need to make more money, based on a for-profit system, they jack up the prices and they don’t take into account the fact that the ridership drops, too.”
The model, he continued, stands in stark contrast to other maritime jurisdictions, where the ferries tend to be looked at as part of the highway system. That, he said, is what is needed in B.C.
“I’m not saying it should be free, because there is a cost, but right now the pricing system is punitive,” he said. “They raise prices and the ridership drops, so they raise prices and the ridership drops some more, so they raise prices.”
Rather than following a model that calls for the ferry system to turn a profit, Fraser said the bottom line should be more about providing good service to the travelling public.
“The public interest has to be part of the picture here,” he said.
• The recreational halibut fishery is set to close on Sept. 5, the earliest such closure ever, and the move isn’t sitting well with those who make a living helping anglers hook a big one.
The move comes as a result of declining stocks, according to the Deaprtment of Fisheries and Oceans, with a total harvest of only 7.5 million pounds predicted between the commercial and recreational sectors. That’s significantly below average pre-2008 harvest of over 13 million pounds.
However, recreational fishery advocates say the 12 per cent of the harvest they’re allocated, compared to the 88 per cent for the commercial harvest is unfair.
That view is held by Robert Alcock, president of the Sport Fishing Institute of B.C.
“It’s the allocation,” he said. “When they set this up, there were 400 commercial boats, but now there are only 137 active commercial boats. The rest are sitting on the beach, not fishing and just selling the fish. There are guys making $1 million a year not fishing.”