One day before a planned protest against BC Ferries service cuts and fare hikes, the cost of travelling to the Sunshine Coast will go up by 3.5 per cent.
The fuel surcharge, announced Jan. 2 for most routes and set to take effect Jan. 17, will increase the fare from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale (Route 3) by $1.70 for vehicles and 50 cents for adult passengers, raising the basic fare for an adult and vehicle from $63.60 to $65.80.
That amount will go up to about $68.45 on April 1, after a previously announced four per cent fare hike kicks in.
"That's an increase of eight per cent," southern Sunshine Coast ferry advisory committee (FAC) chair Barry Cavens said Monday. "I don't know of anybody who's getting an eight per cent increase these days."
Cavens, speaking to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) transportation advisory committee, said the combined increases would "take approximately $3 million additional dollars of disposable income out of the Sunshine Coast, and I think that's significant."
He also told the committee that the province "seems determined" to make the elimination of the first Sunday round-trip sailing on Route 3 "a firm happening."
And though the province has said BC Ferries would consult with the local FAC "to refine the schedule to best meet the needs of the community," while realizing the net projected savings of $100,000 per year, Cavens said he felt "very uncomfortable" about the committee taking on that role.
"We're not comfortable as an FAC to be placed in a position where we're supposed to come up with something that is acceptable to the community," he said. "We can't presume to speak for the community. We need a broader base."
Cavens reiterated his call for a needs assessment that would identify "the minimum ferry service so the community can grow and meet its potential."
Meanwhile, the BC Ferry Coalition has finalized seven locations on Highway 101 for its Jan. 18 mass protest: Langdale ferry terminal, Pratt Road in Upper Gibsons, Roberts Creek Road, Sechelt in front of the shíshálh Nation administrative complex, the north end of Redrooffs Road in Halfmoon Bay, Madeira Park Road and Earls Cove ferry terminal.
Also appearing before the committee, coalition organizer Jef Keighley said he expected the two largest rallies would be at Langdale and Sechelt, noting the Sechelt location was requested by shíshálh Nation Chief Garry Feschuk.
The protest will run from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and participants are being asked to bring "Tell the Premier" letters explaining "how the proposed BC Ferries service cuts and escalating fares will affect you, your family and your community."
The letters will be collected at the seven staging points and forwarded to local governments and Premier Christy Clark.
Keighley called the event "the opening salvo" in a pushback effort by coastal communities.
"We'll be on the sidewalks. It'll be a public show," he said. "We'll be letting people know by sheer force of numbers that this is an issue that simply is not going to go away."
On Tuesday, the group launched its website at www.bcferrycoalition.com.
"We're inviting communities all around the province to send us information so we can start featuring their communities on there, so that people see this as a place for one-stop shopping for ferry information," Keighley told the committee.
The coalition is calling for the province to put service cuts and fare increases on hold and "honestly consult with coastal communities about the service needed and redesign BC Ferries to deliver that service."
In announcing the 3.5 per cent fuel surcharge, BC Ferries president and CEO Mike Corrigan said the measure was needed because the corporation was paying about 14 cents a litre more than the approved fuel price included in its fares.
"We are well aware that implementing a fuel surcharge is unpopular with our customers, and we are doing everything we can to keep our fuel costs as low as possible, including building new ships with LNG capability," Corrigan said in a statement. "We have waited as long as we can to implement a surcharge; however, we must act now as it is clear that fuel prices are unlikely to decline in the foreseeable future."
A one cent per litre increase in the cost of diesel translates into a $1.2-million increase in BC Ferries' expenses, Corrigan said.
© Coast Reporter