VICTORIA - The British Columbia Ferry Commission has set a price cap on ferry fare increases of 9.2 per cent for each of the next four years.
However, both the transportation minister and BC Ferries say the commissioner didn't factor in the recent $500-million provincial government contribution meant to keep rates more affordable.
Commissioner Eva Hage says in a statement that her preliminary decision considers BC Ferries' labour difficulties, high inflation including rising fuel prices, and an aging fleet of vessels.
Transportation Minister Rob Fleming says in a response to the statement that he wants to assure those who use the coastal ferry service that the goal is to hold the annual fare increase to three per cent.
Ferries president Nicolas Jimenez also assured customers, employees and partners in a statement, saying a final rate increase will factor in the $500-million government investment and the average annual increase will be in the three per cent range.
Hage says the higher price cap in her preliminary decision is contingent on BC Ferries identifying $10 million in operating cost savings over the four-year term.
"The corporation must demonstrate good fiscal management and find a solid footing in which expenses align with revenues. To that end, we are requiring BC Ferries to provide us with a plan that sets out the steps it will take, in consultation with the province, to ensure a financially sustainable, safe, reliable and affordable ferry system over the long term."
Jimenez says BC Ferries has an ambitious capital plan to invest billions in new ships, terminal upgrades, improvement in technologies and service enhancements.
"Those who travel with us deserve a service that keeps pace with growing demand and aging assets. The 12-year plan is in its early stages of development, and it’s entirely natural that a program of this size and complexity will evolve and adjust over time."
Hage's statement also says her decision doesn't take into account the recent $500-million announcement by the province, but it will be considered before she finalizes the price cap on Sept. 30.