If you're looking for a little relief from the gas pumps this summer, you'll have to look elsewhere, because it won't be coming anytime soon.
Even worse is the news this week that B.C. Ferries will be implementing another fuel surcharge as early as August.
It should come as no surprise that B.C. Ferries is doing this, but that doesn't make the news any easier to swallow.
I talked with Ferries' CEO David Hahn on Wednesday morning. He wasn't thrilled to talk to me about the surcharge, but Hahn is a realist and made the decision to tell the public now, rather than wait until the fall when the surcharge could have been even higher. As it stands now, if the ferry commissioner approves BC Ferries' application in July, the major routes, along with route three (Horseshoe Bay-Langdale) will see between an eight and nine per cent increase, while the minor routes will see between 15 and 20 per cent. Not good news for anyone, especially frequent ferry travellers and ferry dependent communities such as the Sunshine Coast.
I'm not blaming B.C. Ferries for the proposed increase. We're getting gouged at the pumps everywhere we go - in our cars, on airlines, now B.C. Ferries. It's a sign of the times in which we live. But it would be nice to see the provincial government doing more to help alleviate some of the high costs of fuel.
Provincial Transportation Min-ister Kevin Falcon and the Liberal government refuse to step in and address fuel costs and surcharges, though Falcon has the power to do something.
New Democratic Party ferry critic Gary Coons slammed the announcement this week, saying, "Increase after increase in ferry fares have hammered coastal communities. Now we're getting another 'fuel surcharge' increase that doesn't have to go through public scrutiny, thanks to a deal between B.C. Ferries and the Campbell government that circumvents legislation in the Coastal Ferry Act."
Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons is also disillusioned by the government's seeming lack of doing anything. Simons feels that Falcon doesn't realize the cost of living in ferry-dependent communities will increase disproportionately compared to other parts of the province, and he plans to invite Falcon to Powell River so he can explain his lack of action. Boy, I'd love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting.
I agree with Simons that it's high time Minister Falcon comes to the Sunshine Coast to talk with residents, with business owners, tour operators, B&B owners - everyone who depends on the ferry to bring travellers to the Coast to spend their tourism dollars and enjoy what we have to offer. There is no question that the high fuel costs will have an adverse affect on the tourism industry here this summer. Higher fuel costs means less travel, more people staying close to home and not spending their money travelling here. It could be a long, hot, expensive summer for many of us.