Wednesday, January 16, 2008

North Coast MLA prepares to meet the public over Ferry concerns

With a public meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Gary Coons has been busy making sure that residents of the North Coast and Queen Charlottes get a chance to have a say on their concerns over the ferry service and pricing structure on the North Coast.

The MLA who is in town for a public forum outlined his concerns over the latest ferry increases and expanded on his thoughts regarding the ferries as a lifeline for many of our communities on the coast making them much more than just another form of transportation.

Most likely he’s already preaching to the converted, as locals have been left less than enamored of the Ferry corporation in recent years over any number of issues, they once again get a chance to vent their feelings at Fisherman’s on Wednesday evening starting at 7 pm.

The Daily News provided a bit of background for would be meeting goers with a front page story in Tuesday’s paper.

Coons left furious after latest ferry price increases
By Leanne Ritchie
The Daily News
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Page one

A new fee associated with changing reservations on Lower Mainland ferry routes has North Coast MLA Gary Coons fuming.

"Campbell promised stable fares when he began the privatization of our ferries," said Ferries critic Coons. "That promise has disappeared along with his concern for coastal communities already devastated by dramatic increases in fares."

On Friday, B.C. Ferries announced that it was changing its reservation system in the Lower Mainland to allow customers to change reservations via telephone or online if their travel plans change, however there will be a fee associated with the change.

Though Coons welcomed the new ability for people to change reservations, he says users don't need to be repeatedly hit in the pocketbook with every change to company policy.

“This new nine dollar charge is above and beyond the scheduled fare increases that residents and businesses have spoken out loudly against,” he said.

“The Campbell government needs to demonstrate their concern for coastal communities by immediately freezing fares and unscheduled costs. Many British Columbians depend on ferries for their survival, and they should be treated as our marine highways.”

Coons has been visiting coastal communities throughout of B. C. where he says the most consistent message he receives is that ferry fare increases are too dramatic an frequent.

Coons will be in Prince Rupert on Wed.. Jan 16, and in Bella Coola on Jan.. 24.

The meeting in Prince Rupert takes place from 7 to 9 p. m. at Fisherman’s Hall.

He added that the B. C. Ferry Commissioner in 2004 expressed concern that B. C. Ferries would “unduly exploit its monopoly position in the supply and price of reserved and unreserved spaces on these often-congested routes, especially if there is significant growth in traffic in the next few years.”

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