The Minister of Trans-portation has tabled various amendments to the Coastal Ferry Act, which should, to some extent, alleviate the fast rising ferry fares. It appears that all this tinkering will not provide the desired long-term solution that ferry fares should not rise more than the consumer price index. One permanent remedy would be if government would treat the routes served by maritime ferries in a similar manner as the provincial highways.
Even in high places it is now accepted that ferry routes are an integral part of the provincial transportation infrastructure. Route 3, Langdale to Horseshoe Bay, is our highway.
The financing of our land-based highways is roughly as follows: the provincial fuel tax and the motor licensing fees pay for the maintenance of the highways. Major upgrades (Sea to Sky highway - $700 million) and new construction (Island Highway - $300 million) are financed through an increase in the provincial debt (i.e. taxpayer funded). We all, including ferry users, are paying for servicing this debt.
Major upgrades of ships and terminals and purchases of new ships have to be paid by B.C. Ferries, which must borrow the funds in the open market resulting in an increase in their long term debt. B.C. Ferries must amortize these ships and terminals annually $114 million and have to service the debt annually $72 million. Ultimately these costs have to be recovered through rapidly increasing fares.
If the government would absorb amortization and interest charges, same as they do for highways, our fares should not rise more than the cost of living.