Todd Stone stopped in Nanaimo as part of a final push before next week’s B.C. Liberal leadership vote.
The party will choose its next leader between Feb. 1-3 and Stone was in Nanaimo on Wednesday, a day after the final debate. The former transportation minister met with the News Bulletin to talk about his priorities and a range of topics, including ferries.
Ferry fares were rising rapidly and were unsustainable when he became minister four years ago, said Stone, adding that the Liberals were able to get B.C. Ferries on a sustainable path faster than anticipated. The next step is to begin to bring fares down, he said.
“I would like to see a 15-per cent fare reduction on the minor routes as a start, the small and minor routes in the province,” said Stone. “I have talked about waiving reservation fees for B.C. residents as another means to leaving more money in people’s pockets and I do think that we need to look at how, beyond immediate fare reductions on the major routes, what are some other steps that can be taken to reduce the overall cost burden particularly for Vancouver Island and Island residents in general with respect to the dependence that is real for a lot of residents in coastal [B.C.]”
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Stone said the major routes have seen significant improvements in terms of vessel upgrades, schedule enhancements and service improvements on board, although there is room for improvement in terms of reliable high-speed internet access.
“Ultimately, the goal is to begin to see fares on the major routes begin to come down as well,” said Stone. “This all has to be done within the context of ensuring that the corporation remains sustainable over the long term and seeing very significant investments in new terminals and new vessels.”
Stone said he will hold the B.C. NDP to their commitments to a ferry fare freeze and making travelling on ferry travel more affordable. He hopes there is an election sooner than later – if the Liberals win, those will be decisions his party would make.
Stone said the B.C. Liberals need a leader who can hold Premier John Horgan and the B.C. NDP accountable for their “terrible mismanagement” and said there are higher taxes and thousands of jobs lost across the province over a span of six months.
“I’ve got a proven track record … we need a leader who understands that the world has changed around us and this province has changed,” said Stone. “The economy’s changed, expectations of British Columbians have changed and our party has to also, building on our track record of good economic management, of course. Our party has to adapt to that change and be willing to embrace renewal and I think I’m the candidate that most embodies the understanding of the kind of change that this party needs to make to adapt to everything that’s going on around us.
“Last, but not least, we need a leader who understands that this party needs to diversify. We need more women, more youth and much more representation of diverse communities in our party in order to be successful in elections moving forward.”