The notice on the flip side of this paper was recently posted onboard the vessel indicating that BC Ferries intends to replace the 90-car Queen of Capilano with the 70-car Howe Sound Queen. What the notice doesn't explain is that the proposed replacement would include running an additional 16-car ferry [Note 1] during peak periods, as well as a daily foot-passenger sailing during peak hours of operation.
The foot-passenger ferry proposal is aimed at reducing car-ferry demand during daily peak hours of operation and would be run concurrently with a new GVTA Bowen Island Transit Service. If successful, it is anticipated that the reduced peak period car traffic would allow the Howe Sound Queen to meet car traffic demands during shoulder and off-peak periods. During peak periods, the addition of a 16-car ferry [Note 1] would provide a two-vessel operation, giving more frequency and improved customer service.
So what is motivating the corporation to consider [Note 2] these changes? Presently, the Corporation is faced with huge financial challenges. In the 1996/97 fiscal year, the Corporation suffered a $76 million deficit. Last year there was another significant loss of $56 million dollars. The Corporation has been working with advisory committees [Note 3], the union and the provincial government to identify viable options for creating a sustainable financial framework.
During the last year, representatives from communities served by the Corporation formed an advisory group called the Coastal Council to BC Ferries. Their primary focus has been to submit a recommendation to government on the financial framework required to give the Corporation a firm foundation upon which to carry out its mandate. The Council recently submitted its "Preliminary Report" to the Minister Responsible for BC Ferries recommending the Province contribute almost $90 million annually. Recognizing that all parties must contribute to the financial health of the Corporation, they are also working with the Corporation towards obtaining service efficiencies worth $4 million.
To help achieve this goal, a new initiative for offering ferry services to the Southern Gulf Islands was recently approved by the Southern Gulf Island Advisory Committee. This new service is expected to generate savings of between $2-$3 million annually. For this initiative to be implemented, a number of vessel changes are required, one of which involves using the Queen of Capilano. As a further measure to gain serviceefficiencies, the Corporation has been looking at the changes described above for the Bowen Island Ferry Service.
The Corporation must consider significant changes in the way it does business so that it can operate with the financial realities of today. The corporation remains committed to consulting with your advisory committee before instituting any changes in service and welcomes any suggestions you have on improving customer service that also enhances service efficiency.
If you have any questions, please contact Ann Carpenter:
Phone: 250 890-7806, Fax: 890- 7813, Email: Ann.Carpenter@gems3.gov.bc.ca, or
Mail: RR#5, Site 520, C28, Comox,, BC V9N 8B5