Premier David Eby expressed sympathy with British Columbians frustrated by BC Ferries but promised better days ahead.
When asked about cancellations and long waits for sailings without reservations, Eby said Thursday (July 20) that this a “huge source of frustration” for people who depend on ferries for their livelihood.
“It’s a priority for our government,” he said. “That’s why we made significant changes to the leadership at BC Ferries to turn it around and ensure that it delivers that consistent and reliable service. We put half a billion dollars into BC Ferries to make sure that fares don’t increase.”
He was referring to a February provincial subsidy aimed at addressing rising fuel costs and inflation.
“Making sure that they are reliable is just as critical, which is why we changed the leadership and why we are continuing to push that to get changes in place to provide a reliable ocean highway for everybody who needs it in British Columbia.”
That leadership change took place almost exactly a year ago, when BC Ferries board chair Joy MacPhail, fresh off her appointment, fired Mark Collins as president and chief executive officer on July 22, 2022. Collins had held those roles since April 2017. During the 28 days before Collins’ firing, BC Ferries had cancelled 173 sailings.
Meanwhile, BC United used this anniversary for a general critique of BC Ferries, now under the leadership of Nicolas Jimenez, who previously served as a head of ICBC. It called for rapid improvements to protect the service as an essential transportation link and key part of the provincial tourism industry.
“It’s evident that the NDP’s meddling has only led BC Ferries down a path of chaos and inefficiency,” Jordan Sturdy, Shadow Minister for BC Ferries, said. “Things are worse than ever and the public is left to bear the consequences.”
BC Ferries issues include sustained inflation, fuel prices, labour costs and a local shortage of staff. While other industries face similar issues, BC Ferries also operates in a highly regulated environment with high education standards for its key staff.
It takes years for aspiring deck officers and engineers to receive the necessary training and certification before they can even enter the workforce and additional years from them to gain the necessary experience to move up in rank and responsibility. This means that any losses among those key staff are not easily replaced.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming has called B.C. Ferries’ performance over the Canada Day long weekend “unacceptable” and deemed the upcoming B.C. Day long weekend a testing ground.