Dear Mr. Stone,
I am sure you are well aware of the concerns of those of us who live in the coastal communities and islands on the West Coast of British Columbia regarding escalating ferry costs. To date it is apparent that neither the BC Government nor BC Ferries have plans to alleviate this situation.
My wife and I are retired and we have lived on Gabriola Island for almost 10 years. We find, as do so many others living on very modest fixed incomes, that the increase in fares and the loss of free Monday to Thursday travel has a substantial negative impact on our life.
While scanning through the online version of the local newspaper from our former hometown in Scotland, I came across an article referring to the Scottish government-funded Road Equivalent Tariff (RET) scheme. This scheme sets ferry fares based on the cost of travelling an equivalent distance by road and covers cars, small commercial vehicles and foot passengers. The specific article refers to extension of the scheme to the Isle of Arran ferry service but the article states that the scheme has been very successful in reducing fares to other Scottish islands, boosting local economies and increasing tourism.
I think this is an excellent example of an enlightened, progressive, and practical approach by government to providing essential and affordable transportation links to island and coastal communities and supporting local industries and tourism. There was a time when the BC government and BC Ferries had a similar philosophy.
With all due respect, I believe you and your ministry could benefit from communication with Scottish Transport Minister Keith Brown and his staff to explore in detail how the scheme works in practice and how it is funded. I am sure that Mr. Brown and his staff would be pleased to oblige and, perhaps, those of us who live on the Gulf Islands may yet benefit from an adaptation of the Scottish model. These ferry links are indeed our highways.
The article may be found at: http://www.ardrossanherald.com/news/arran/articles/2014/10/27/494539-arran-ferry-fares-slashed-from-today
Sincerely, George McEwan