B.C. Premier David Eby is voicing his frustration with the ongoing problems at BC Ferries, in an interview with CHEK News.
Eby said he’s fully aware of British Columbians’ concerns with the ferry operator, including cancelled sailings, boat problems and staff shortages.
When asked if he was disappointed with the current state of BC Ferries, Eby called the situation “wildly frustrating.”
“Here is a Crown corporation that has one job – which is to move people from one side of the water to the other side of the water – affordably, in a regular schedule,” he said.
“It doesn’t feel like it to many people, it should be, as hard as it apparently is, which is why I think the change in leadership was needed.”
Ferry issues became a topic of conversation in the B.C. legislature on Wednesday. During question period, BC United Leader Kevin Falcon blasted BC Ferries for hiring new executives while sailings see staff shortages.
“It’s astonishing that after going through a terrible summer full of cancelled ferries, sailing waits at BC Ferries, the NDP response [is], ‘Let’s add four more vice presidents, that ought to fix the problem,’” said Falcon.
He added that he thinks the NDP government appointing board chair Joy MacPhail and new CEO Nicolas Jimenez – who came from the same role at ICBC – have only made things worse.
Despite the criticisms, Eby thinks the province is on the right path to improving service at BC Ferries.
“I think this is a solvable problem, but the amount of time to get those boats in place, and some of the challenges we’ve had around hiring the staff that are needed, have obviously been big challenges for BC Ferries,” said Eby.
“But I am sure, just as we turned ICBC around, we can turn around BC Ferries as well.”
One upside for BC Ferries on Wednesday is that it wasn’t fined $7,000 for each of the two missed sailings along the Swartz Bay to Tsawwasseen route.
Those fines begin next year, under a new provincial policy.
Even that policy is contentious though, with Falcon saying Wednesday that it doesn’t make sense for the NDP to give BC Ferries $500 million with one hand to keep fares low, then take some of it back with fines.
Still, with the premier appealing for time – and it could be years to build new ships – British Columbians can likely expect to see more of those populist ferry policies just to respond to public anger in the meantime.