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Liberals only have themselves to blame – Trevena

North Island MLA Claire Trevena slammed the province’s “mismanagment” of BC Ferries. - Kristen Douglas/The Mirror
North Island MLA Claire Trevena slammed the province’s “mismanagment” of BC Ferries.
— image credit: Kristen Douglas/The Mirror

BC Ferries’ financial woes can be attributed to mismanagement and too many senior staff, according to NDP MLA and ferry critic Claire Trevena.

Trevena, who was speaking Saturday afternoon at the NDP Labour Hall, said the BC Liberals only have themselves to blame for the money problems plaguing BC Ferries.

“We have a government that tried to privatize BC Ferries, it didn’t work. They are losing money. That’s what we keep hearing. ‘It’s losing money, it’s losing money,’” Trevena told about 35 people gathered at the hall for the first of four in a new speakers series hosted by the constituency office. “BC Ferries is a body owned by the government and it has an exploding management structure.”

Trevena said that working for Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan, who earns $300,000 a year, is more than 600 managers.

Trevena said that during her analysis and comparison of BC Ferries and the Washington state ferry system (which is under state control) she learned that BC Ferries employs roughly 650 managers and 24 of those are terminal managers. Trevena said when Ferries was under the Ministry of Transportation there were nine terminal managers and there has only been two routes added since then.

Trevena said BC Ferries has six managers for every crew member and its staff make more money than its government counterparts.

“The comptroller for BC Ferries makes $50,000 more than the comptroller-general of the B.C. government and the head of IT for BC Ferries gets double the ministry of health’s IT person and the health minister’s budget is 25 times that of BC Ferries,” Trevena said.

The North Island MLA said it’s unfair that coastal communities are being saddled with service cuts and ever increasing ferry fares in order to pay for the losses of a service that should be part of the province’s highway system.

“These cuts are to deal with a so-called shortfall of $9.5 million,” Trevena said. “I say ‘so-called’ because I think the loss is highly questionable. Do we say Highway 19 is at a loss? Do we say Highway 16 is not making a profit? No.”

Trevena said if the government goes through with its promise to cut sailings from all of its minor routes there will be “economic and social chaos.”

Trevena said it’s hitting business owners particularly hard.

“I have had, since November, countless e-mails from business owners just stunned this is happening, saying ‘why are they doing this, why are they putting my business under.’ Lodges all around these communities are in jeopardy,” Trevena said. “And this was done without any economic impact studies.”

Trevena said it’s also “astounding” that BC Ferries intends to eliminate free walk-on fares for seniors during the week. Instead, the discount will be 50 per cent on weekdays.

Trevena said by charging seniors, BC Ferries is double-dipping.

“BC Ferries gets a transfer from the province to cover social services,” Trevena said. “The seniors, school kids who ride for free if they’re on a school trip. BC Ferries is taking social transfers from the government and still charging seniors. I was once told by Mr. Corrigan that no one rides BC Ferries for free...someone is paying BC Ferries.”

Trevena said despite BC Ferries now being in the spotlight, the government is refusing to back down. Jim Abram, regional district director for Quadra Island, said that’s because the premier doesn’t believe it’s an issue for most British Columbians.

“When Premier Christy Clark and Todd Stone (B.C. government transportation minister) told us regional district chairs that we’d never get the communities on the other side of the mountains to support putting BC Ferries back under highways, I took that challenge,” Abram said. “As of today, over 36 letters from local governments across every corner of this province, supporting us, are going to the premier and she won’t be able to smugly say they won’t support it, because they do support it.”

Trevena agreed that if anything good has come out of this, it’s that communities from across the province are uniting.

“I think it’s exciting people have gotten engaged in this, people have come together to force the government to engage,” Trevena said. “What it’s going to do to make them change their minds, I don’t know, but I don’t think there’s anything better than seeing people from all walks of life come together to improve their communities. I hope we can make change.”

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