Ferry fares targeted by MLAs

MLA Ron Cantelon says legislative action will mean a lot to Island residents

When he looks back at the legislative session that just ended, Ron Cantelon cites Bill 22 — which bans further walkouts and sends the contract dispute to mediation — as one of the two most important pieces of legislation to go through the process.

“That’s going to affect most households in Oceanside,” he said. “I certainly hope the mediator is going to be able to make some progress by the end of the month.”

The other, said the Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA, was the Coastal Ferries Act, which tamped down projected fare increases in exchange for efficiencies at BC Ferries.

“That will affect everyone on the Island,” Cantelon said. “There was a recognition that we needed to put more money into the system to keep fares at a reasonable level, but now we have to take a hard look at whether it makes economic sense for a single person to take a car back and forth to commute. We have to take more advantage of transit on both sides.”

For Scott Fraser, the just-completed legislative session in Victoria was memorable not so much for the legislation that was passed, but the manner in which it did so.

The Alberni-Pacific Rim NDP MLA said that many of the bills that passed by the end of the session were not given adequate time for either scrutiny or debate.

“We saw legislation rammed through in a way that has never been done before,” Fraser said. “I surmise that this is the way they’re going to avoid having a fall session.”

Fraser said the spring session is usually used to introduce bills for first and second reading, with the vote coming in the fall.

“These are new laws and individual groups and organizations that might be impacted need to scrutinize them,” he said. “It makes for a much more informed debate in the fall session.”

As an example, Fraser cited the Animal Health Act, which threatened heavy fines and possibly jail fines  for people who reported specific locations of disease outbreaks in the province.

“In the last week of the legislature sitting I raised two questions about an outbreak in Clayoquot Sound,” he said. “That morning they brought in an amendment to that section of the bill on the last day of the sitting and, by the afternoon, when I asked questions about fish farms, they pulled the bill. That’s why I would suggest that having time to scrutinize the bills closely is important to try to get to the bottom of that.”

Cantelon was coy about whether there would be a fall session or not.

“We completed virtually all the legislation we needed and now there will be a lot of work to do because after the legislation goes out the regulations under the Act have to be worked out, so all the ministry bureaucrats will be very busy,” he said. “That will preclude creating new legislation to a large extent, because we will be tidying up what we have already done.”

However, Cantelon said the decision is up to the premier.


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