The Office of the BC Ferries Commissioner (the “BC Ferry Commission”, the “Commission” or the “commissioner”) is a quasi-judicial regulatory agency operating under the Coastal Ferry Act of 2003 and as amended by subsequent legislation. The commissioner regulates the ferry operator British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. (BC Ferries) on 24 saltwater routes. The commissioner is independent of both the provincial government and of BC Ferries.
The primary responsibility of the commissioner is to regulate ferry fares. The commissioner sets a ceiling or “price cap” on the average level of fares which BC Ferries can charge. The goal in setting the price cap is to balance the interests of ferry users with the interests of taxpayers while protecting the financial sustainability of the ferry operator.
In the course of its regulatory activities and responsibilities, the commissioner is required to bear in mind four principles as set out in section 38 of the Act as follows:
- the primary role of the commissioner is to balance, in the manner the commissioner considers appropriate, the interests of ferry users, taxpayers and the financial sustainability of ferry operators;
- ferry operators are to be encouraged to adopt a commercial approach to ferry service delivery;
- ferry operators are to be encouraged to seek additional or alternative service providers on designated ferry routes through fair and open competitive processes; and
- ferry operators are to be encouraged to be innovative and to minimize expenses without adversely affecting their safe compliance with core ferry services.
Other key tasks of the commissioner include monitoring BC Ferries’ adherence to the terms of the Coastal Ferry Services Contract, approval of major capital expenditures, regulating unfair competitive advantage and the approval and monitoring of BC Ferries’ customer complaints process.
Click here for more information on BC Ferries’ statutory and contractual obligations as defined by the Coastal Ferry Act and by the Coastal Ferry Services Contract.
The commissioner is not an ombudsperson acting to resolve any private disputes with the company nor an advocate to help communities and particular interest groups to lobby government. It is not a general complaints or compliments department for BC Ferries. Click here to provide direct feedback to BC Ferries.
Further, the commissioner is not responsible for regulating safety or environmental aspects of ferry operations.
See “contact us” details on providing the commissioners with public input on the ferry system.
Each year the BC Ferry Commission publishes an annual report and service plan and budget. Click here for a list of the its annual reports and service plans and budgets.
The commissioner is responsible for:
- reviewing the quarterly reports of BC Ferries to determine (1) if it is meeting the service requirements in its contract with the Province, (2) what changes have occurred in the quality of service as measure by on-time performance and the number of full sailings which leave customers behind, and (3) if the actual fares charged are within the allowed maximums (or price caps) for each of seven groups of routes. Click here for Price Cap Compliance Reports;
- reviewing and considering any applications by BC Ferries for approval of major capital expenditures;
- conducting performance reviews and publishing results. Click here for performance reviews;
- reviewing and considering any applications by BC Ferries for reductions in service (temporary reductions would occur immediately);
- reviewing and considering any applications by BC Ferries for route discontinuation. The determination process takes nine months;
- determining whether to deregulate a route, i.e. remove the route designation for a route upon which sufficient competition exists so that regulation of that route is no longer necessary;
- ordering inspections of the records of BC Ferries as necessary;
- issuing orders for non-compliance with the legislation as necessary;
- publishing every decision, determination, order or proceeding made by the commissioner; and
- monitoring what information BC Ferries provides to the public.