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Minister Lekstrom reluctant to approve proposed cuts to BC Ferries sailings

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said he's wary of allowing British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. to reduce the number of sailings it makes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.

"The last thing I would like to have to think of here is service reductions when it comes to sailings," said Lekstrom in an interview. "We've got that, it's new, we've got the other cost-cutting measures, I want to have an opportunity over the next few weeks to look at that."

On Sept. 27 BC Ferries, which has a budgeted deficit of $20 million this year, announced measures to save $11 million. President and CEO David Hahn announced his retirement at the end of the year as part of those cuts, overshadowing the other measures.

But those measures also included cutting 400 round trips, or 800 sailings, a year on the major ferry routes. That's a change that would require the approval of the provincial government, which created the ferry company and contracts with it for ferry services.

"If there are questions that are raised from what they've put forward in the cost cutting measures I'm going to make sure I have those answers before I make any decisions," Lekstrom said. "Certainly I think it will probably raise some questions in my mind and I'd like to get back to ferries before I would ever entertain the proposal on the 400 sailings."

The $11 million in identified cuts won't cover B.C. Ferries deficit this year, he said. "Although that's a lot of money, it impacts rates to a very, very small degree," he said. "I do think the public is looking for something different."

He said he anticipates being able to give an answer on the sailing reductions within two weeks.

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

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