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Campbell's two-month fare cut won't fix ferry problems: NDP critic Coons

Premier Gordon Campbell's move to reduce ferry fares for two months is an admission prices are too high, but will do nothing in the long term for coastal communities, said NDP ferry critic Gary Coons.

“This is a band-aid approach,” said Coons. “A two-month cut, what impact is that going to have on tourism or local businesses to help them over the crisis?”

In an evening news conference yesterday, Campbell announced several measures aimed at helping B.C. weather the global financial crisis. One of those measures was to cut B.C. Ferry fares by 33 percent and restore service levels in December and January.

The cut's not enough, said Coons. “Communities have been devastated by outrageous fares and fuel surcharges,” he said. “Campbell needed to recommit fully to the public ferry system and re-evaluate his privatization scheme.”

The move also shows the Campbell government's relationship with the ferry company is not “arm's length”, said Coons.

In 2003 the government changed BC Ferries from being a crown corporation to a quasi-private company. The government introduced the Coastal Ferry Act to regulate the company and set up an independent commissioner to oversee it.

Campbell and his transportation minister Kevin Falcon have repeatedly said the arm's length relationship means they had no control over the raises given to BC Ferries' directors, climbing fares, fuel surcharges or cuts in service.

“Campbell and Falcon can dictate to BC Ferries,” he said. “The political interference, basically it was a politically expedient public relations move.”

Falcon was in a cabinet meeting this morning and unavailable.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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