Province needs to admit mistake and fix it

If the strong voices of our local municipal and regional leaders are any example, it must be clear to Victoria that BC Ferries CEO David Hahn cannot be permitted to continue running the quasi-privatized corporation by bluff and by gambit.

If the strong voices of our local municipal and regional leaders are any example, it must be clear to Victoria that BC Ferries CEO David Hahn cannot be permitted to continue running the quasi-privatized corporation by bluff and by gambit.

The leaders of all the coastal regional districts met recently in Nanaimo to begin charting a strategy to restructure BCF based on the premise that Hahn’s semi-privatized ship of state is “deeply flawed” with an agenda that is having a “devastating” effect on local economies.

Earlier this year, in a game of corporate poker that a shorter-leashed Crown CEO would never dare to play, the Million Dollar Man announced that ferry fares should increase 50 per cent on some minor routes and more than double on northern routes.

The government winced. Nevertheless, Ferry Commissioner Martin Crilly signed off on increases between 2012 and 2016 that will drive fares up by almost 18 per cent on major routes and 38 per cent on minor routes.

Then Hahn dropped another wild card asking the provincial government for permission to cut 400 sailings a year from its major routes. The government is still mulling that one over.

This game of blind man’s bluff is no way to run a ferry system and the government knows it.

I believe there is a dawning awareness that it was a mistake in 2003 to transform BCF from a taxpayer-supported Crown corporation into BC Ferries Services Inc. The idea was to create an entity that could attract private sector investment and adopt a commercial approach to service delivery. However, the corporation is controlled by the BC Ferry Authority which holds the single common voting share of the company.

Two years ago, Comptroller General Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland submitted a Review of Transportation Governance Models that found fault with the quasi-privatization and called for improvements to “ensure strong oversight and accountability.”

Wenezenki-Yolland said oversight and accountability were inadequate “because Authority members have also appointed themselves as Directors on the BCF Board.”

“Consequently, the Board approved excessive compensation plans for both themselves and the BCF executives without proper accountability.”

The Comptroller General also suggested that “a focus on the profitability … of the ferry operator exclusively could be at the expense of the public service mandate of the ferry system.”

Obviously, the BCF Board needs fewer self-indulgent insiders and more public voices. That’s why our frustrated local government leaders have asked to be represented on the BCF Board of Directors.

This proposal comes just weeks before the annual Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention in Vancouver (Sept. 26-30). This municipal summit is attended by every member of the legislature and is a political pressure cooker within which there is no wiggle room to escape steamy issues.

Going into this convention, the coastal community leaders are also asking that the ferry system be treated as part of the province’s highway system. In fact, one UBCM resolution from Port Clements in the Haida Gwaii calls on the provincial government “to recognize our coastal ferry services as essential extensions of our provincial public highway system.”

It’s a tough subject to dodge since the transportation ministry continues to operate free, taxpayer-subsidized ferries crossing the Kootenay and Arrow lakes.

Another tough subject to dodge will be why the provincial government continues to allow itself to be bullied on this file. M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre to host a trio of acts

Aaron Pritchett, Alex Cuba and Valdy will each play four shows

Pacific Opera takes music to the streets

Artists travel around Capital Region District this summer for live performences

SKAMpede goes live in July

Beloved annual event returns with changes, pre-registration online

Victoria Flamenco Festival goes virtual for 2020 event

The show will go online from July 23 to 26

Campbell River teen produces quarantine musical

Ryver Santos Cegnar performed for friends and family over Facebook

Nanaimo Art Gallery summer camp moves programming online due to COVID-19

Teenage artists have until the end of next week to apply to Dazzle Camouflage

Symphony pop-up concerts coming to central Vancouver Island

Only 40 tickets available for each Vancouver Island Symphony private backyard show

Courtenay theatre gets support for livestream ‘hybrid’ shows this year

Island Coastal Economic Trust funds help Sid Williams Theatre with infrastructure, training

Virtual film industry career fair offers chance to talk with the experts

Experts in 11 different departments, three film union representative will be in attendance

Victoria Classic Boat Festival cancelled due to safety concerns

Organizers say Inner Harbour doesn’t provide enough space for physical distancing

Infringing festival finds a way to dance during pandemic

Nanaimo’s Crimson Coast Dance Society holding drive-in, micro and physically distanced events

Coastal scenes at the forefront for July shows at Victoria galleries

From sculpture to landscape paintings, summer art is about nature

Most Read