Conflict questions surround harbor master

by Jacqueline Massey

(The Bowen Island Undercurrent, January 22 1999, p1: with permission)

Local residents are asking questions about the possibility of a perceived conflict of interest that might exist should the recently appointed wharfinger and harbour master for Snug Cove sign an agreement with the British Columbia Ferry Corporation to provide a vessel for a proposed foot-passenger service. The service is being considered for Route 8, the Bowen Island-Horseshoe Bay run.

Maurice Gagné was appointed harbour master and wharfinger of Snug Cove by the federal Minister of Transport in November, 1998. Gagné is also the principle of Astrolabe Marine of Vancouver, the company that is undertaking construction of a 42-foot aluminium and titanium hulled catamaran to be used on a proposed passenger ferry service to be sponsored by BC Ferries.

The draft business case for the pilot passenger-only service, completed in December, 1998, recommends that "the policy requirement to request proposals from the private sector be waived, and that contract negotiations commence with Astrolabe Marine of Vancouver due to the specialized nature of the service being sought."

The plan indicates that a first offer of a "turn-key" passenger only service has been made to the Corporation. The offered price is $30,750 per month plus a variable price per hour of $171.00. The annual cost of the service is projected to be $630,000.

BC Ferries officials report that the plan for a passenger remains in draft form only. However, discussions continue between BC Ferries and Gagné.

Gagné has also been appointed Harbour Master and Wharfinger for Horseshoe Bay. The appointment was made late last year. All the appointments are for a one year renewable term.

According to Peter Greg, the press secretary of the Minister of Transport in Ottawa, as long as Gagné has not signed a c ontract with BC Ferries, no conflict of interest has occurred. Greg said Gagné was appointed because he was viewed as the most competent person for the job. He indicated that Gagné has considerable marine experience and a high degree of expertise, especially in the area of the transportation of dangerous cargoes. Greg also indicated that it is common practise of the Minister of Transport to appoint the same individual for the positions of wharfinger and harbour master of adjoining harbours, especially where the ports are geographically close, such as Snug Cove and Bowen Island.

The government pays $100 per month per facility to the wharfinger and harbour master to cover expenses incurred in collecting docking fees, overseeing the harbour and tending to environmental concerns. Individuals also receive 20 percent of annual fees collected up to a maximum of $31,000.

Snug Cove has not had a harbour master and wharfinger for approximately 1.5 years. Local people were surprised to learn of the appointment of Gagné. They were informed of his appointment by his own letter of introduction which was issued November 19 and circulated to owners of boats moored at the government wharf in Snug Cove.

Members of the dock divestiture committee, studying the feasibility of local ownership of the federally owned docks, were not aware of Gagné's impending appointment. Derek Parkinson, chair of that committee, said this week that the committee was never consulted about possible candidates for the position of wharfinger. If they had been, he would have recommended that a local individual be sought for the job.

According to officials at Transport Canada's office in Vancouver, Gagné was recommended for the position of wharfinger and harbour master by Christina Banville, the Operation Manager of Transport Canada. Approval of the proposed appointment was also granted by officials of the municipality of West Vancouver, said Nelson. He did not know if anyone locally was contacted about the appointment.

When asked why Bill Lord, the harbour master for Horseshoe Bay for approximately 20 years had not been reinstated, Nelson could only state that his contract was not renewed.

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