Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors are concerned that an upcoming public consultation on coastal ferries is designed primarily to cut services so that the province can save $30 million.
The contract was awarded last month to Kirk & Co. Consulting Ltd. for almost $600,000, but no dates have been scheduled for public engagement meetings, expected this fall, the SCRD’s transportation advisory committee heard Sept. 10.
“The whole process is being done by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, said Barry Cavens, chair of the Southern Sunshine Coast ferry advisory committee. “The government has asked B.C. Ferries to find $30 million in savings. They’ve found $4 million; some of the cuts will begin in October. Now they want to find another $26 million.”
“They’re asking us to come up with ideas for doing things differently to save them money,” said SCRD board chair Garry Nohr. “I’m really concerned that if that’s what this company was hired for — to reduce ferry costs by $30 million — I would like to make sure they understand that ferry communities want to retain the service they’ve got and improve it.”
Nohr urged the committee “to get right on this” and a motion was approved recommending he, as board chair, send a letter to Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak, asking if the aim of the community engagement is to save $30 million and requesting a meeting.
A provincial information bulletin released in June said the consultant would engage coastal communities to “discuss service adjustments,” which could mean a reduction in the number of sailings.
That focus, Cavens said, means public participation is vital.
“It’s an opportunity to bring forward more than service adjustments, but to bring forward issues like fares that have affected traffic volumes,” he said. “It’s a benefit to the Sunshine Coast if we all participate — residents and governments — and make it clear what our needs are for ferry service.”
In his report, Cavens also updated the B.C. Ferries process to develop a master plan for the Langdale terminal, which is separate from the community engagement exercise.
Ferry advisory committee members met with B.C. Ferries officials on Aug. 27 and raised a number of issues including cost, he said.
“We said, ‘Look at doing no more than is necessary,’ because any additional costs are going to have to flow down to rates.”
Timing, foot passenger loading, improving traffic flow, and accessibility issues were also raised, along with the impact of fare collection in Langdale.
“B.C. Ferries in the long term wants to collect fares at Langdale,” Cavens said. “Will it mean more vehicle backups? Where will the people from Keats and Gambier go to buy tickets?”
Open houses on the Langdale terminal master plan are expected this fall, he said.
“B.C. Ferries will come in with some options and there will be a discussion,” he said.