Premier David Eby has spoken with BC Ferries senior management in the wake of a chaotic travel weekend which saw completely full boats and long delays for many passengers.
Speaking to media outside the B.C. legislature Friday (July 28) afternoon, Eby said he had two main messages for management during the call earlier in the day: They must do everything they can to ensure affordable and reliable access to ferries, and they have the government’s full support to make it happen.
“What we are seeing currently is not acceptable, they understand that, and they will make the changes to address it,” said Eby, while also acknowledging the Crown corporation is facing serious challenges such as skilled labour shortages and supply chain delays on essential spare parts.
“They will have the government’s support to do that work, to be innovative to find ways to deliver.”
When faced with questions about whether there was a need for changes in senior management at BC Ferries, and at what point that decision should be made, Eby highlighted that current leadership is fairly new, but if it cannot rise to meet challenges “obviously we will take the necessary steps,” without providing a time frame.
”The metric for all British Columbians is pretty straightforward when it comes to ferries,” Eby said. “When you are baking on the tarmac with your kids in the back seat and can’t get on the ferry, that is not an acceptable situation. When your goods can’t get to your store because there is no room on the ferry, that is not an acceptable situation. When you are not able to get the information you need from the online systems, that’s not an acceptable situation.”
But despite his recognition of recent passenger complaints about the service, Eby also defended BC Ferries’ response to challenges, noting more money from the government won’t solve problems like a shortage of skilled mechanics, replacement parts which arrive defective from overseas, and the lead-time to procure brand new vessels.
He said there is a need to get through the remainder of the peak summer travel season and allow BC Ferries to “build capacity” during the slower season, with government checking in regularly to monitor progress on that front. In the short term, his hope is the return of the Coastal Celebration to sailings between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen Friday will help alleviate some of the congestion issues.