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More ferry consultation delays fixing problems: NDP's Coons

A provincial government plan to consult the public about coastal ferry services is a delaying tactic that won't address BC Ferries' real problems, said NDP ferries critic Gary Coons.

"It seems to be delay, delay, delay," said Coons. "This seems to be somewhat of a stalling tactic and drawing this out until we get closer to an election."

This morning the provincial government, which owns the ferry company, announced it is putting out a request for proposals for a contractor to help the ministry "design, develop, implement and summarize a community engagement program that will increase public knowledge and solicit public input on strategies that further the Province’s vision of connecting coastal communities in an affordable, efficient and sustainable manner."

The RFP is to close July 10. Engagement with the public is to take place from August to Oct., according to the RFP document. The contract is not to be extended beyond March 31, 2013, it said.

The next provincial election is scheduled for May 14, 2013.

In recent years the comptroller general, the auditor general and the B.C. ferry commissioner have all completed reviews of BC Ferries and the Coastal Ferry Act, said Coons. Commissioner Gord Macatee's review earlier this year heard from some 2,000 British Columbians and visited at least two dozen ferry dependent communities, he said.

BC Ferries' problems are well known and have to do with a decrease in affordability as fares have risen, dropping ridership and losing money, said Coons. The review announced today is "just a small Band-Aid that won't address the major issues that need to be fixed," he said.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Blair Lekstrom was in transit this afternoon and unavailable for an interview.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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