An NDP government would freeze B.C. Ferries fares while it audits the financially troubled taxpayer-funded company, and won’t follow through with Liberal plans to cut routes and sailings, the party announced Wednesday.
Leader Adrian Dix said his party will set aside $40 million so that ferry riders aren’t hit with planned ticket increases in 2014 and 2015.
The NDP would use that time to conduct an independent audit of the quasi-private crown corporation, said Maurine Karagianis, the party’s incumbent in Esquimalt-Royal Roads and ferry critic.
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“We're going to freeze ferry fares at today's current rate, and there will be no increase while we go through this visioning process,” Karagianis said.
The NDP won’t follow through with $26 million in service cuts to routes that the B.C. Liberal government has spent the last few months consulting with coastal communities about, Karagianis said.
“Right now, we’re going to freeze all future activity until we go through this process,” she said.
The audit would try to determine the true extent of B.C. Ferries’ debt and deferred maintenance costs, but would also look at salaries for top officials and the company’s management structure, Karagianis said.
The process would look at what people expect out of B.C. Ferries in future decades, the kinds of ships it plans to build and the service it might deliver, she said.
The B.C. Liberal platform says, if re-elected, the party would use one-third of future liquefied natural gas revenues to pay off the B.C. Ferries debt, up to $1 billion, and free the corporation from annual debt-servicing costs.
The Liberal government has said the current level of service at B.C. Ferries is not sustainable, given financial losses and low ridership. The Liberals spent the beginning of 2013 consulting with coastal communities on how to reduce service to save money, but then decided not to announce route reductions before the May 14 provincial election.