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B.C. Ferries cutbacks go ahead in April, as planned

The provincial government is pushing ahead with cuts to thousands of minor and northern sailings of B.C. Ferries despite widespread opposition in coastal communities.

The provincial government is pushing ahead with cuts to thousands of minor and northern sailings of B.C. Ferries despite widespread opposition in coastal communities.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who first announced the cuts in November, also reiterated plans to scrap free ferry passes for seniors and introduce slot machines on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route.

The cuts will save B.C. Ferries nearly $19 million.

Stone confirmed the changes in releasing the results of a public consultation process in November and December that did little to change the government’s mind.

Stone said B.C. Ferries will look at refining schedules on routes affected by the cuts.

“For example, there are opportunities on certain routes to eliminate midday sailings in favour of keeping early morning or late-evening sailings, which was a common theme that we heard from many communities during the engagement,” he said.

He also said B.C. Ferries will increase summer service between Bella Coola and Bella Bella from one sailing per week to three or four sailings using the MV Nimpkish.

The change comes after Bella Coola residents and tourism operations complained about the loss of the Port Hardy-Mid-Coast-Bella Coola route.

“We’re expanding the service from the Nimpkish to help mitigate the tourism impacts while the industry develops new options for circle tours,” Stone said.

NDP critic Claire Trevena said the Liberal government ignored public opposition to the cuts and the results of its own consultation process.

“What we have here is a government that has literally turned its back on all coastal communities and in doing that has turned its back on the coastal economy,” she said. “There are a lot of people who just don’t get why the government is being so short-sighted when it comes to B.C. Ferries.”

lkines@timescolonist.com