The much anticipated government review of BC Ferries is due to start in the new year, according to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena. In a press release issued yesterday, the Ministry said:

This review will identify what improvements can be made to the existing model and the Coastal Ferry Services Contract to better serve the needs of ferry users and coastal communities.

Under the terms of reference, the review will:

  • Examine whether the contracted ferry services are being provided for in a manner that supports the public interest.
  • Consider what changes to the price cap and regulatory model would ensure the ferry system is working as efficiently and effectively as possible for all British Columbians, and, in particular, for the ferry users and communities who depend on this essential service.
  • Identify opportunities and recommend actions to enhance ferry service delivery and/or reduce costs without impacting existing service.

The review will not consider bringing BC Ferries back into government. The review is expected to cost approximately $250,000, inclusive of all fees for technical expertise, research and analysis under the terms of reference to support the review process.

The Province has appointed Blair Redlin, former deputy minister of transportation and former CEO of the BC Transportation Financing Authority, as a special adviser to oversee the review. Redlin will report to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, with a final report to be delivered to government by June 2018.

Many have argued for a return to direct government control of BC Ferries, but the decision to exclude consideration of that from the review comes as no real surprise given the levels of capital borrowing needed to fund the renewal of BC Ferries’ aging infrastructure. Will this review do more than tinker around the edges? Only time will tell.

Also missing from the review’s Terms of Reference is any mention of input from the public – or indeed from Ferry Advisory Committees. However, the Minister assured FAC Chairs this summer that our voices would be heard and your FAC will be preparing a submission in the coming weeks to set out the issues that are most important for Gabriola’s ferry users. Watch this space!

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