B.C. Premier John Horgan wasted no time in protesting the federal government’s decision to re-impose its rule that B.C. Ferries passengers have to leave vehicles on the lower decks during sailings.
Horgan said he immediately raised the issue with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland Sept. 9, the day the decision to remove the temporary exemption put in place for the COVID-19 pandemic. Transport Canada lifted its requirement to vacate lower decks earlier this year after B.C. officials pressed federal officials repeatedly about keeping the ferry system functioning with greatly reduced traffic. Effective Sept. 30, passengers on lower decks must come up to passenger decks, which are subject to mandatory mask rules and have much of their seating blocked off to preserve physical distance.
Horgan said the regulation is stricter than it needs to be for most of the coastal routes B.C. Ferries follows. It was imposed in the wake of the 2006 sinking of the Queen of the North during an Inside Passage sailing at night. Two passengers in the lower vehicle decks died.
“This is something that’s being imposed, returning to a previous situation that we also felt was a bit heavy-handed for the inland waters that our ferries travel in,” Horgan told reporters in Victoria. “We are in the throes of moving resources into public transit, whether it be B.C. Transit, TransLink and B.C. Ferries so we can stabilize public transportation systems. This is an unwelcome intrusion by the federal government at this time, and we’re going to pursue it aggressively.”