BC Ferries: Commissioner aims to keep ferry fare increases near inflation

The BC Ferries commissioner is planning to set the maximum annual increase for BC Ferries fares at 2.3 per cent for the coming contract.

Ferries starts its next “performance term” on April 1, 2020 and it runs until March 31, 2024.

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A release announcing the preliminary price cap said, “The proposed price cap increases anticipate that total operating expenses – including those that BC Ferries has no control over – will increase at, or slightly above, the rate of inflation, while the trend of increased traffic will level off.”

According to the report that accompanies the decision, commissioner Sheldon Stoilen noted that average fare increases for the current performance term have been lower, on average, than the 1.9 per cent cap and that BC Ferries will likely face increases in performance term five of $19.8 million for the provincial carbon tax, $6.1 million for the new provincial health tax and $19.4 for new Canada Pension Plan rates.

The commissioner is also urging BC Ferries to develop a plan for the conversion to all-electric ferries as soon as infrastructure and technology are available as well as “consider possible reductions in its long-term capital plan to ease pressure on future price caps.”

That long-term capital plan includes upgrades to the Langdale terminal and new ships that will allow for two-ship service year-round on the Langdale route sometime in 2024.

“I am pleased to see the price caps tracking close to the consumer price index for British Columbia. The major challenges to operating a world-class system that is affordable to the riding public and taxpayers can be expected to persist and even deepen,” Stoilen said. “The commissioner will applaud any effort by BC Ferries and the Province to address the Redlin report recommendation for a jointly developed vision to address them.”

Stoilen has until September to finalize his price cap decision, and the public is invited to comment at www.bcferrycommission.ca

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