In a front page article summarising the newly-released report from the auditor-general, the Vancouver Sun confirms that a string of problems including political interference, mismanagement, unrealistic budgetting and premature construction on the Pacificat fast ferries have led to a situation which is endangering the entire BC Ferries operation. This information vindicates the request for a “value-for-money” audit made nearly two years ago by Bowen Island's Bert Paul. Bert is one of Bowen Island's Ferry CURE Directors and a Chartered Accountant.
The Auditor General's report (1999/2000 Report 5: A Review of the Fast Ferry Project: Governance and Risk Management) may be accessed on the web site maintained by the Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia, under "Reports" in the menu on the lefthand side of their home page. It is available in HTML (fast access from a browser) or can be downloaded as a PDF file. To return to this site, simply close the new browser window that will appear for the Auditor General's site.
In a front-page article in the Undercurrent, Richard Littlemore, our GVRD Director, quotes the President of BC Ferries as saying the Capilano will be replaced by a Century Class vessel similar to the Skeena Queen within two years. Islanders panned the Skeena Queen according to survey results summarised in the Undercurrent on August 14th last year. The local RCMP detachment, through Corporal Wayne Mossman, wrote a memo to BC Ferries expressing great concern about fragmented accomodation, in the context of controlling unruly behaviour by teens, when the Howe Sound Queen was proposed as a replacement for the Cap. The Skeena Queen has four separate lounges.
In a later interview, Littlemore said that Lingwood declined to involve the stakeholders in proposed design modifications to meet Bowen's needs while admitting that vibration problems have to be solved and the accomodation improved. Lingwood and therefore BC Ferries have backed away from consultation with stakeholders, opting instead for a central planning, top-down, conventional corporate model for decision making, despite all the promises, said Littlemore. “At least you know where you are now, unlike the past,” he added.
In today's press release, Ferry CURE reports that Ross J. Beaty, a Bowen resident, saw his daughter and her friend nearly drowned by the sudden fast ferry wake effects entering Tunstall Bay. As a result, Ferry CURE has initiated a petition to have the fast ferry's speed reduced to a safe level.
Copies of the petition may be printed from this site, signatures collected, and the sheets returned to Richard Goth, Ferry CURE president (phone 604-947-9703). Note that all pages bearing signatures must carry the full petition wording at the top, and all signatures must be supported by a clearly legible name and full address.
In the Bowen Island Undercurrent for July 23rd, a front page article by Ferry CURE director Bert Paul reports that the BC Ferry Corporation proposed to its executive management committee a "renewed strategy to replace our Queen of Capilano with the Skeena Queen, an unsuitable, poorly designed substitute." Paul notes that the vessel will cause loading delays (on an already tight schedule). The accomodation is also split into four areas, which will lead to exactly the same fragmentation problems of concern to the local RCMP detachment, succinctly expressed by the former NCO in Charge, Corporal Wayne Mossman in a memo dated 99-01-22 to BC Ferry Corporation's V-P for Inter-Island Affairs (Mr. Glen Brown)
A copy of Corporal Mossman's memo was posted on the Queen of Capilano for public consumption.
Paul's article also notes that the BC Ferry Corporation seems to think the use of the Skeena Queen would allow the number of daily sailings to be reduced. Note that in the immediate future, judging by their Soundings newsletter, coupled with the proposal to use the Howe Sound Queen on the Bowen Island run (Route 8), Bowen is to be allocated only 0.43 return individual car trip places per inhabitant per day to Horseshoe Bay, compared to 1.72 return individual car trip places per inhabitant per day for vessels servicing Mayne Island. We should ask why such an comparatively unfavourable service is proposed.
Additionally, a larger vessel, sailing less frequently, will lead to the same increased traffic congestion problems highlighted in the same RCMP memo, as well as causing frustration to Bowen Islanders, whose planning will be further constrained. For reductio ad absurdam, why not a 1200 car vessel once a day? Surely the absurdity of that solution is obvious. The daily car-return-trip capacity needs to be increased, and the flexibility also needs to be increased. Current proposals seem to do the opposite, as well as putting the clock back on control of student behaviour.
Finally Paul's article suggests a link between large expenditures on the fast ferry program, and a general shortage of funds for maintaining adequate levels of service over the majority of the BC Ferry Corporation's service area.
In December 1998 Bowen Islanders discovered that BC Ferry Corporation (BCFC) had apparently taken a unilateral decision to start using the ageing Howe Sound Queen (the “Hound”— 70 cars, 330 passengers, 10.5 knots, unable to sail in heavy weather, and with essentially no facilities) instead of the Queen of Capilano (the “Cap”—85-90 cars, 450 passengers, elevator for disabled, 14.5 knots, able to sail in all weather encountered in Howe Sound, and with adequate toilets and cafeteria) on the Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island service (“Route 8”). The Hound was originally designed and used for river crossing in Quebec
Although various authorities and representatives knew of these plans many months ahead of time (as detailed in the BCFC Southern Gulf Island Soundings newsletter “Soundings” dated January 1999), the Bowen Island Advisory Transportation Committee (BIATC) first learned about it through an unofficial channel in December. BCFC management even then seemed unable to give proper answers to questions. They first confirmed the plan publicly by means of an undated notice posted on the ferry in December 1998. That information was still not accurate since the proposed second vehicle ferry to alleviate overload problems (the 16 vehicle Nimpkish turns out to be unusable.
Adam Holbrook, Chairman of BIATC, resigned in protest at the way his committee was “rendered useless by the recent actions of [the BCFC]” and wrote an open letter of resignation that was published in the Bowen Island Undercurrent.
Faced with overwhelming public pressure, BCFC subsequently denied that the plans were a “done deal” in a letter dated February 17, 1999, and signed by Glen Brown (Vice-President of BC Ferries Inter-Island Services). Mr. Brown stated that:
The last item makes it clear that Bowen Island's ferry service is still a likely candidate for downgrading, so this fundamental problem has not changed. (See the BC Ferries “Soundings” for January 1999 together with the issues it raises). Read Mr. Brown's letter carefully. Duplicate copies were made publicly available for ferry users at the Cap cafeteria on 99-02-19.
Everyone on Bowen Island would be affected, should any service downgrade occur. The negative results would include reduced property values and serious difficulties pursuing normal activities such as work and shopping. Off-islanders would also be affected if they do business on the Island, or own property. Gordon Wilson the Minister Responsible for Education, Aboriginal Affairs and Ferries, was previously leader of the Progressive Democratic Alliance. In his weekly letter for the PDA on Dec. 8 1998, he speculated about possible links between the BCFC posting the largest deficit ever and the then current ferry labour crisis, noting that:
“the management of the BC Ferry Corporation would like nothing more than to have the public's attention diverted away from their own gross mis-management of the corporation by reducing service to the prescribed levels and turning the blame against the ferry workers. ... It has to be clear, even to a casual observer, that a Corporation that has managed to rack up over a billion dollars in debt, a Corporation that has liabilities greater than its assets, one that has neglected the need for on-going construction and sensible maintenance of the ferry fleet, is to blame for our current crisis in ferry service.”
He elaborated on the BCFC problems in a second PDA letter dated Jan. 19 1999. After detailing how BCFC ran itself into almost unlimited debt pursuing a “pet project” that was ill-conceived, he said:
“ ... the Corporate heads completely lost sight of their mandate which is to move British Columbians as safely, frequently and affordably as possible. They failed to recognize that the fleet was an extension of the highway system for all those communities who are ferry dependent. ... We have a corporation that is top-heavy with administration, and that has accumulated such a debt that it now expects the people who depend upon it to pay more for reduced service.”
It is vital to expose any problems with BCFC plans for the the Bowen Island ferry service by asking some hard questions about the circumstances and rationale for any proposed changes, especially if you feel there has been a lack of consultation, or such consultations have occurred but then been ignored. Please get involved. Write, phone, email and/or fax your concerns and questions to BCFC management and Board members, to politicians, to the media, and any to others who may be influential, or responsible. Make sure they cannot plead ignorance. A list of issues in the form of questions that need answering may help you to think about what is important to you. Keep communications focussed on individual issues, or a few very closely related issues, to make it more difficult for them to supply motherhood responses, and keep getting back to those who do not address your concerns properly. If you want to pursue several issues, don't be shy of sending more than one communication to the same person.
There are those who feel that restricting the ferry service is a reasonable way to control Island growth. This agenda is by no means universally agreed, and can only be addressed by democratic means, including full information, public debate, and a significant majority decision. These elements have been conspicuously lacking in BC Ferries dealings with Bowen Island. This web site aims to improve the flow of information. Participation by email is encouraged. Democracy requires continual review of plans, which are a mainly a guide to action, and should never be cast in stone. Keep up with what is happening, or something may happen that you don't want.
According to an article in the Undercurrent dated July 10th 1992, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of whale sightings around Bowen Island "over the last few years".
Quite apart from the large marine mammals, many observers are concerned that fast ferry operations will compromise the safety of swimmers, beach users, and small craft; and will damage shore lines and waterfronts.
You can contact the organizers of Ferry CURE by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
BC Ferries has a website at http://www.bcferries.bc.ca which you may wish to visit.
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Page last updated 04-02-20. Animations courtesy mediabuilder