Does Transportation Minister Mary Polak really believe she can solve BC Ferries’ budget woes by inviting ferry users to attend consultation get-togethers to volunteer ways to slash $23 million out of the budget of the service they depend on?
The reality is the minister can save millions the moment she finds a way to shed a bunch of ferry corporation executives who have fat salaries and fatter pensions.
When it comes to cutting fat there is a template to follow. Another agency of government, ICBC, has just announced a significant wave of 250 layoffs that will save the Crown corporation $29 million a year.
ICBC committed publicly in August to trim its top-heavy executive branch in response to a government review. The insurance agency did not need to ask the drivers of B.C. to come up with service cuts.
The ferry corporation knows exactly which routes and which sailings it wants to eliminate.
However, the government has been trying to put accountability distance between itself and the ferry corporation since 2003 when it was transformed from a taxpayer-supported corporation into an entity that could attract private sector investment and adopt a commercial approach to service delivery.
The goal was not to create a pricey service with shrinking ridership.
The experiment in quasi-privatization failed and the ferry-using public refused to allow the government to sidestep its responsibility for the service.
Strathcona Regional District Director Jim Abram cut through the consultation optics when he dismissed the process as “a complete sham.”
Abram says a group of coastal regional district representatives rejected Polak’s consultation proposal three weeks ago.
The regional district reps were not given the courtesy of reviewing material ahead of a meeting with government, nor were they even provided an agenda. It was “insulting,” he said.
It seems to us the government is about to accomplish the very thing it seeks to avoid; it is turning our ferries into a hot button election issue.