THE announcement of another fuel surcharge means ferry fares will rise by more than seven per cent in the next three months, and that hike will be a significant blow to coastal communities and the provincial economy, say New Democrats.

“As if a four per cent ferry fare hike coming in April wasn’t enough, B.C. Ferries users will now be hit with a 3.5 per cent fuel surcharge starting this month,” said New Democrat Ferries Critic Claire Trevena on Thursday. “Since the Liberals have been mismanaging our ferry system, fares on some routes have risen by more than 100 per cent. Transportation Minister Todd Stone needs to stop proposing short-sighted cuts and fix this critical system.”

Trevena said these increases come alongside more bad news for affordability across the province. On January 1, MSP premiums rose for the fifth year in a row, while tolls on the Port Mann Bridge doubled. In April, hydro rates will jump by nine per cent.

“Families in B.C. are struggling to make ends meet, and yet the Liberal government is rolling out one fee increase after another while making reckless cuts to services British Columbians depend on,” she said.

Under the B.C. Liberals, ferry ridership has fallen, fares have climbed, debt at the corporation has ballooned, the government has failed to curb exorbitant executive bonuses, and now people up and down the coast are facing devastating service cuts, said Trevena.

“Our ferries are our coastal highways. They are essential to our provincial economy and critical to the health and viability of coastal communities. The B.C. Liberals need to come up with a long-term plan to turn around this failing system,” she said.