“We don’t believe it makes a lot of sense… to invest 100 million dollars in a new vessel on this particular route.” – Transportation Minister Todd Stone
Transportation Minister Todd Stone suggests that he is saving new vessel costs of $100 million by replacing the Queen of Chilliwack with the Nimpkish on the Discovery Coast. But BC Ferries expects to retire the Nimpkish by 2018 according to the recently released Capital Plan. In other words, he replaced a vessel that was due to be replaced by 2018, with a smaller, less capable vessel that is also due to be replaced by 2018.
“The government still has a ferry to replace in 2018,” said Petrus Rykes, Chair of Save the Discovery Coast Ferry. “Only now, we’ve lost the $16 million spent refurbishing the Queen of Chilliwack, and they’re using a vessel that’s actively driving away tourists and destroying the local economy at the same time.”
There are other indications Minister Stone is either incompetent or purposely misrepresenting the truth regarding this decision:
- In an effort to fight declining ferry passenger traffic, Stone made cuts that have resulted in a 46% reduction in passenger traffic.
- In an effort to improve a 25-30% ferry utilization rate, Stone cut the sections of the Discovery Coast route with the highest utilization rates and preserved the sections with the lowest utilization rates.
- He continues to insist the route costs the government $7 million every year to operate. Not true. BC Ferries data shows the $7 million in losses he’s talking about were in fact one-time charges resulting from the $16 million spent on upgrading the Queen of Chilliwack. Without those costs, the 5-year average loss is closer to $3 million including capital cost write-offs, or an actual loss from operations of only $2.6 million.
- Stone also suggests his cuts will eliminate a $2500 per vehicle subsidy. But numbers from BC Ferries show the average subsidy on Route 40 since 2003 is only $850, not $2500, and Stone’s cuts were intended to save only 10% of that. So the real savings is $85 or less.
“The Minister could not make more harmful decisions even if he was actively trying to. And now he’s twisting the facts about them,” said Rykes. “So what is his purpose here? Is he trying to save money? So far there are no appreciable savings for BC Ferries, but instead he’s created a huge loss to the economy. Stone needs to start acting like a Minister of the Crown, and start making decisions that benefit the people of this province. Stubbornly clinging to false statements is not helping anyone.”