When the news broke of B.C. Ferries’ record earnings of $12 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2020, collective groans could be heard from Victoria to Port Hardy.
According to B.C. Ferries, all earnings are reinvested into ferry services. The company recently invested $26 million into larger ships, upgraded terminals, debt reduction, and financial sustainability. These investments are part of a $3.9 billion 12-year capital plan that will ensure the ferry system can withstand the challenges of the next 15 years.
While it can be argued that this is a responsible use of earnings, many headline readers were quick to decry high prices of ferry sailings. Some passengers balk at a $75 minimum fare to bring a car to the mainland. In the past, people have expressed their desire to see B.C. Ferries taken over by the government, and regulated as part of the Trans Canada Highway.
Islanders, of course, are the most affected by B.C. Ferries policy and pricing. Musing about a reality where ferry costs are reduced for Islanders, or the service is taken over by the government, may do something to assuage the pain of ferry pricing. But, is that a viable alternative?
It’s hard to say. Although reducing fares would benefit every Vancouver Islander in the immediate term, what are the long term consequences of reducing fares? If B.C. Ferries is relying on profit to reinvest in upgrading the ferry system, reduced fees would likely result in a lower quality of service, and possibly the cancellation of unprofitable routes.
There’s no easy answer to questions around what B.C. Ferries should be, and how much sailings should cost. At the very least, people can agree that B.C. Ferries profits should be invested back into the service so it can be better for all.