Home Organizations & Associations BC Ferries $500 million boost to keep ferry fares affordable

$500 million boost to keep ferry fares affordable

Marine-certified training offered at BCIT, Camosun College, and VIU.

premier, david eby, bc ferries
Premier David Eby announced $500 million for BC Ferries to help keep fares affordable, Feb 26, 2023. [livestream]

Sunday February 26, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

BC Ferries is getting a $500 million boost to help keep ferry fares affordable while the corporation also grapples with labour challenges and the big effort to refit the fleet with greener fuel options.

Premier David Eby and Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) Minister Rob Fleming held a livestreamed press conference today to announce the new funding.

bc ferries, spirit of bc
The large Spirit of BC is one of the vessels that transports passengers and vehicles on the main route between the BC mainland (Tsawwassen terminal) and Vancouver Island (Schwartz Bay terminal serving Greater Victoria). [BC Ferries]

This is one of several funding announcements of recent days and weeks, as part of the government’s application of surplus funds from the 2002-2023 budget.

Budget 2023 will be announced in less than two days, on February 28. Announcements about spending surplus 2022-2023 funds leading up to the new budget have political impact, but can continue through to fiscal year-end at March 31.

BC Ferry Corporation:

BC Ferries operates with the mission of ‘connecting the coast’, or more specifically ‘To connect communities and customers to people and places important in their lives.’

BC Ferries is one of the largest ferry operators in the world, moving more than 60,000 customers and 23,000 vehicles throughout coastal BC every day.

There are currently 39 ferries moving more than 22 million passengers and 8 million vehicles every year.

rob fleming, moti
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming, said marine-certified training is available at post-secondary institutions in BC, during livestream media session Feb 26, 2023.

Marine highway:

The coastal ferry system in BC is a marine highway, as Minister Fleming pointed out at the beginning of his remarks today. Individuals, families and businesses rely on travel by BC Ferries between the mainland and various points on Vancouver Island, as well as between the smaller islands.

“Our government recognizes the importance of reliable and affordable ferry service for travel and goods movement,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. “It is vital that people living in B.C.’s coastal communities that depend on ferries – and all British Columbians – are well served and supported by this service.”

Businesses will benefit from affordable ferry rates as many small businesses rely on BC Ferries for the movement of goods through freight transport.

“Every day, people use BC Ferries to get to work, and visit family and friends, as well as plan vacations,” said Premier David Eby. “We know the cost of everything continues to go up due to global inflation, but by acting now, we can prevent double-digit fare increases from hitting people who depend on our ferries.”

Board chair comment:

joy macphail, bc ferries
Joy MacPhail, BC Ferries Services Board chair.

“Ferry services are vital for our coastal communities and economy,” said Joy MacPhail, BC Ferries Services Board chair, in a news release today. Thanks to the provincial government’s investment, ferry commuters will have continued access to affordable, reliable and accessible service and cleaner, modern and efficient ferries,” she said.

Last month, Joy MacPhail moved over to BC Ferries from being the board chair at the Insurance Corporation of BC.

BC Ferries CEO Jill Sharland was at the corporate helm during the pandemic. She joined BC Ferries in March 2020 as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and was appointed interim CEO in July 2022.

Impacts of global inflation:

Through a recent submission to the BC Ferries commissioner and the impacts of global inflation over the past 18 months, it was clear BC Ferries users could face fare increases of 10.4% a year for the four-year period of 2024 to 2028.

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Keeping annual average fare increases below 3%:

With this $500-million investment, the B.C. government’s goal is to keep annual average fare increases below 3% a year. Final fare increases will be determined by the BC Ferries commissioner.

Cost of fuel and greening the fleet:

The increase in core costs like fuel, along with higher inflation are factors in driving up overall costs for BC Ferries. The $500 million will also support greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction through electrification of vessels and other initiatives to green the fleet and operations.

Mitzi Dean

BC NDP tending to BC Ferries:

Today’s announcement builds on other actions the B.C. government has taken to improve service and keep fares affordable.

In spring 2019, the Province added 2,700 round trips, reduced fares by 15% on smaller and northern routes, froze fares on the major routes, and brought back free passenger travel for seniors on Mondays through Thursdays.

In 2020, $308 million in Safe Restart funding was provided to BC Ferries to cover COVID-19 related operational losses, protect service and limit fare increases.

Use of BC Ferries by seniors:

The BC Ferries fare relief for seniors is not income tested and “that’s not going to change”, said Premier Eby today.

senior, mumford, bc ferries
Senior ferry user Diana Mumford (chair, Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs group, and Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee chair).

A senior who relies on ferry travel to visit with family and friends, Diana Mumford (chair, Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs group, and Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee chair), was one of today’s press conference speakers; a mother and grandmother, she said that sometimes that’s “the only way they are able to travel and go see their family, grand kids and friends”.

“It is very vital and appreciated by a lot of ferry users,” she said.

Labour challenges & training:

“The BC Ferry Corporation has made a numnber of aggressive attempts to recruit in the area(s) of labour shortages in a number of different job categories”, said MOTI Minister Fleming today. He said that includes “very senior positions that pilot our ships and that are marine safety certified and work on the deck”.

marine, career, traiining

“There have been attempts to recruit crewing. There have been job fairs in the province and beyond. They have hired hundreds of workers to add to the BC Ferries workforce,” said Fleming.

Training includes making sure staff are marine-safety certified. “There are partnerships with important post secondary institutions that do training for BC Ferries-specific occupations,” said Fleming. He mentioned BCIT, Camosun College and Vancouver Island University in that regard.

“We’re building on the partnership around training for marine certification positions,” Fleming said.

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Next 4-year rate hike will start April 2024:

The BC Ferries commissioner is in the process of determining, by March 31, 2023, the preliminary annual fare increases (price cap) for the next four-year period starting April 1, 2024. The final annual fare increases for the next performance term will be published by Sept. 30, 2023.


mary p brooke
Mary P Brooke, Editor, Island Social Trends

Island Social Trends emerged in mid-2020 from a preceding series of publications by founder/editor Mary P Brooke and published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc, covering news of the Vancouver Island region, BC and national issues through a socioeconomic lens.

The publication series began with MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), then morphed to a weekly print newspaper Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and then into the weekly PDF/print West Shore Voice News (2014-2020). The news at IslandSocialTrends.ca (2020 to present) is entirely online.

Among many other qualifications, long time journalist Mary Brooke, B.Sc. holds a Certificate in Public Relations and an industry certificate in digital marketing. She reports with the BC Press Gallery.