by Shaun Thomas – The Northern View posted Nov 27, 2014 at 9:00 AM— updated Nov 27, 2014 at 11:32 AM
On the morning of Nov. 27, MLA Jennifer Rice received a written letter from Transportation Minister Todd Stone indicating he would reverse the practice of charging passengers in wheelchairs the $120 fee for a cabin, as the more expensive outside cabins are the only ones that are wheelchair accessible.
North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice says she has a verbal promise from Transportation Minister Todd Stone to ensure fairness when it comes to the cost of cabins on trips to Haida Gwaii and the Inside Passage.
Rice first brought the issue up in the Legislature on Nov. 25, directly asking Stone why the practice exists.
“The Inside Passage and Haida Gwaii ferry routes are often overnight trips. For sleeping quarters it is $90, but if you use a wheelchair it is $120. The Minister of Transportation has claimed he is trying to do what he can to ‘ensure the fares are as affordable as can be so … why are people who use wheelchairs being discriminated against with this unfair extra fee,” she asked.
Stone responded saying Rice could speak to him further about specific concerns, and the next day Rice said the minister verbally agreed.
“I am pleased that the minister has agreed to fix this problem. But since I have not received written confirmation that this unacceptable policy is no longer in place, I will continue to press the minister until I am confident this issue has been resolved,” she said.
BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said the extra $30 was not meant to discriminate, but was “an oversight” in the design of the Northern Adventure and Northern Expedition.
“We have inside cabins and outside cabins and the outside cabins have a window and view so they cost $120. On both vessels, the only wheelchair accessible cabins are outside cabins,” she said, noting the issue will be brought forward to disable passengers this winter.
“We have a disability committee, who next meet in February, and we will certainly bring this to that committee to discuss. In the meantime if a customer with a wheelchair wants a cabin, they can call our customer service line and we will certainly help to accommodate them.”