Sailing waits will remain a fact of life, but at least the wait for free ferry rides for seniors is almost over.
In Tuesday’s B.C. budget, the NDP government announced that it will fulfill its campaign promise to freeze ferry fares on major routes, reduce fares on smaller routes and re-introduce free rides for seniors Mondays through Thursdays.
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The announcements, slated to come into effect April 1, will be welcome here on Vancouver Island. Goodies delivered in a budget speech often benefit one part of the province or another, but any relief on ferry fares is something makes much more of a difference here on the Island than anywhere else. At the same time, for those who haven’t yet reached their golden years, it’s hard to get overly excited about a fare freeze, because after all, it’s really just an announcement that things remain status quo.
It’s noteworthy that the NDP government chose to follow through on its promises surrounding ferries now. A ferry review process started in January and is continuing until June and it might have been very easy for the government to delay making any decisions on the ferries file until the review is complete.
But it makes sense that the NDP would want to be seen as showing leadership on ferries, generally a top-of-mind issue to Vancouver Island voters, because the B.C. Liberal Party knows the importance of the file, too. The Liberals made their own campaign promises about ferries in their Vancouver Island platform, introducing the idea of tax breaks for frequent sailors, and continued to pitch ideas in the recent party leadership race.
Maybe this week’s announcements didn’t need to be made before the ferry review is complete. Of course we support free ferry rides for seniors and if fares aren’t coming down, then a freeze is the next-best thing. But we also suspect a review will identify other kinds of changes that will have to happen to get B.C. Ferries sailing smoothly.