Public pressure forces NDP to rollback ferry fare hikes

by Mary Frances Hill

(The Bowen Island Undercurrent, January 2nd 1998, p1: with permission)

Bowen Islanders' protests over ferry fare increases had an impact,
as the NDP government rescinded the fare hikes for Bowen Island
and other short routes and froze the rates for a year

It could have been whispers from two North Vancouver Island backbencher MLAs in the ear of Employmnt and Investment Minister Dan Miller.

Or it could have been noisy public protests. the complaints, the threats of recall.

Whatever it was that brought Victoria to roll back ferry fare hikes, Bowen Island resident Richard Goth chalks it up to the power of the people.

“This really showed the population that they can make a difference,” says Goth, of Bowen Island's Ferry Fares Strategy Committee.

More than a month before, B.C. Ferries Corporation set one-way fare increases of $1 and 50 cents for passengers on smaller routes.

On December 24th, the province rescinded and froze for one year the tariff increase for minor-route ferry commuters.

The announcement came after public protests and Employment and Investment Minister Dan Miller's decision to hire a middleman.

On December 17, Miller appointed mediator and Saturna resident John Fryer to discuss ways to improve the consulting process between Gulf Island commuters and the B.C. Ferry Corporation. Fryer met with commuters, and recommended the rollback and fare freeze for 1998.

But Goth says it may not have been the middleman that clinched it. He suggests public threats of recall over the issue may have encouraged two North Vancouver Island backbenchers to tell Miller they'd “cross the floor” if it were not rescinded.

“The government had been receiving a barrage of complaints. There was a tremendous amount of pressure (on NDP MLAs) from constituents.”

Despite the apparently charitable roolback and freeze, Goth insists it was the public effort—including high-profile protests—that helped residents wake up to their own abilities to change what they deem unacceptable measures by government.

“It showed people there is something they can do, that (the provincial government) isn't sitting in an ivory tower somewhere, untouchable.”

Page last updated 99-11-01