This report, which came during fiscal year 2013, was enough to stir the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation into action. They warned that subsidies to business might have to be cut if government wasted more money on citizens. CTF did not need to worry, the BC Liberals' largesse to ferry users was less than it seemed. Rob Shaw repeated the $80 million claim again in December 2012, after a year-end interview with Premier Clark. In fact, that fiscal year showed a provincial subsidy increase of $23.8 M, which is less than 30% of the promise.
There has been no growth in provincial ferry subsidies for more than two years. Government contributions were $2 million less in the 12 months ended March 31, 2014 than in the year before. In Quarter 1 of the 2015 fiscal year, federal and provincial support to BC Ferries is 1.9% higher than in Quarter 1 of the preceding year but 2.1% less than in Quarter 1 of FY 2012.
The following is from the 2014 Annual Report.
Something that is seldom mentioned in discussions of ferry subsidies is that they are mostly something else. Most of the payments to BC Ferries by the provincial and federal governments are "Transportation Fees" by which governments ensure service to lightly populated coastal regions. Prince Rupert, for example, is attached to more than $50 million in annual transportation fees. Two thirds of BC Ferries traffic is on four unsubsidized routes out of Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay.
In fact, many Vancouver Island and Sunshine Coast residents may pay too much because their main routes to the lower mainland are also subsidizing north coast and Gulf Island traffic. The choice to subsidize ferries to underpopulated areas is a political choice - a good one, too - but the entire economy should pay for the subsidy, not people using ferries in and out of Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen.