BC Ferries tumbling down rabbit hole

Dear editor,

Re: Ferries CEO answers criticism (Dec. 19).

Dear editor,

Re: Ferries CEO answers criticism (Dec. 19).

Alas, if it were only true, if Mr. Corrigan had actually addressed the points I raised. He did not — he just talked around the issue in what we have all come to recognize as BCFC bureaucratic bafflegab.

I questioned why BCFC’s engineering department was proposing an entirely unnecessary, very expensive 50-car parking lot as part of the proposed cable ferry scheme.

Dead silence on that score.

Interestingly, Mr. Corrigan asserted that BCFC now expects to save $2 million per year with a cable ferry, a figure that translates to $80 million over the 40-year life of the project, which is the way BCFC has heretofore done its accounting for the alleged financial benefit of the scheme.

Previously, had they pegged the expected saving over that time period at $19 million. I find it curious that as the capital cost of the project has more than doubled the alleged savings have more than quadrupled.

Is this a true accounting, or is it an exercise in self-justification for a project whose capital costs have escalated beyond the point of financial viability?

Even a 50-per-cent saving on fuel and eliminating several crew positions will not add up to $2 million a year. BCFC employees are paid well, but not that well. And, as Transport Canada and the Coast Guard have not yet ruled on minimum crewing, wage savings are still largely notional.

Also still notional is the BCFC claim that since a cable ferry is not technically a “vessel,” the above-named agencies will not apply customary safety standards regarding ratios of crewing to passenger capacity.

In the midst of his obfuscatory exercise, Mr. Corrigan let slip something truly interesting.

He wrote, “The decisions regarding the level of service … is [sic], and has always been, a government policy decision.” He is telling us that the provincial government is in charge, that BCFC is just following orders.

Odd, isn’t it, that when the premier takes questions about the ferry service, she turns on a winsomely rueful smile and advises her interlocutor that, whatever her personal position might be, the government does not run the ferry service and thus it is out of her hands.

It is at this point I begin to see an appropriate paradigm. It’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum, pointing at one another, bleating “It’s his fault.”

Apparently we are down the rabbit hole into Alice in Wonderland territory now. I’m pretty sure who gets the role of the Red Queen.

Inquiring minds wonder what role Mr. Corrigan might take — Dormouse? Mad Hatter? The White Knight?

And for those of us in ferry-dependent communities — is it to be “off with their heads?”

The thrust of the letter to which Mr. Corrigan pretended to respond was to question who is in charge within BCFC (“Where is coherent and accountable management?”). His red herring response inadvertently raised the ante; the real question is who is in charge, period.

The shoddy, knock-off garb of the Coastal Ferries Act is coming apart at the seams, revealing the unseemly nakedness it was supposed to cover.

Mr. Corrigan hastened to assure us that all the engineers, executives, and directors are on board with the cable ferry scheme: Thus, “We firmly believe that we can provide an equivalent level of service with the cable ferry. . .”

This despite the fact that a cable ferry over this distance is unprecedented.

With as much respect as I can muster, I have to say that what he  and his cohorts believe is pretty much irrelevant. People believe all sorts of strange stuff — that doesn’t make any of it true.

And remember, these assurances come from the same ship of fools that gave us the German-built Coastal-series boats — the Coastal Desperation, et.al. — you know, the ones that are often tied up or sail with whole decks shut down because they are the wrong tool for the job.

His final riposte was to claim that savings accruing to the cable ferry scheme would benefit the entire system by mitigating upward pressure on fares for all routes.

A pretty assertion, if it turns out to be true. But it has a darker side, one redolent of the arguments over pipelines through B.C. to the benefit of Alberta tar sands oil production.

To wit: Others will share in any benefits, but Denman Island alone will bear the consequences of any problems.


Robert French,

Denman Island


Comox Valley Record