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Ferries boss outlines challenges

BC Ferries president and CEO Mike Corrigan spoke to a joint meeting of the Parksville and Qualicum Beach chambers of commerce on Thursday night. - JOHN HARDING PHOTO
BC Ferries president and CEO Mike Corrigan spoke to a joint meeting of the Parksville and Qualicum Beach chambers of commerce on Thursday night.
— image credit: JOHN HARDING PHOTO

When Mike Corrigan was a professional hockey player, he didn't shy away from the rough stuff.

The president and CEO of BC Ferries also didn't pull any punches Thursday night when he addressed a joint meeting of the Parksville and Qualicum Beach chambers of commerce.

"Everybody has a different opinion on what BC Ferries is," said Corrigan. "It doesn't matter if the ferry system is within government or outside of government — it costs a lot to run a ferry system."

Corrigan presented loads of numbers to the 120 people in attendance, including the fact the ferries, overall, run at about 50 per cent capacity. He pointed to the airlines, which generally run at 80 per cent capacity or cancel flights.

"If we did that (cancel sailings that aren't 80 per cent full) at BC Ferries, I guarantee you one thing: there'd be a new CEO talking to you here next year," he said. Corrigan also spoke of plans to introduce cable ferries (Buckley Bay to Denman Island) and, despite the capital costs, converting as much of the fleet as possible from diesel-powered to liquid natural gas.

He said between 2004-2012, fuel costs skyrocketed to $120 million a year from $50 million, "and obviously we have to pass those costs along."

Corrigan said BC Ferries gets 25 per cent of its revenue from government and 75 per cent from fares and services.

"That (75 per cent) is a heck of a lot more than any other ferry service in the world," said Corrigan. "I think the taxpayers are getting a good bang for their buck."

Questions from the floor after Corrigan's presentation centred around fares and services offered on the ferries. One chamber member suggested the sales of alcohol on board might mitigate some of the expenses. Corrigan expressed some caution about the idea, but did say "maybe we need to look at it."

Before anyone asked, Corrigan addressed the question about whether BC Ferries should be considered an extension of the provincial and/or federal highway system.

"You need to go ask the Minister of Transportation that question," he said.

Corrigan was drafted by the NHL's Detroit Red Wings in 1980. He never played in the NHL, but he did play 229 games in North American minor professional leagues, recording 120 points and 445 penalty minutes with the Kalamazoo Wings and the Adirondack Red Wings.

Corrigan has been a senior executive with B.C. Ferries since joining the company in 2003. He has a MBA from the University of Victoria, a Bachelor of Business from the University of Western Michigan and an Arts Degree from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Corrigan grew up in Sudbury, Ontario and now lives in Victoria with his wife and two daughters.

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