Friday, September 05, 2008

BC Ferries struggles to calm the stormy waters they have created on the Charlottes

With an unpopular (and with a rather poor job of consultation on it) change to the BC Ferries schedule still resonating across the Island, B. C. Ferries has been trying to find a work around the problem to address the concerns of Queen Charlotte Islands residents.

The Chairman of the North Coast Ferry Advisory Committee, Steve Smith and the Ferry Corporation’s spokesman for Community Relations on the North Coast, Matthew Burns, didn’t seem to be quite on the same page of the playbook as they explained where the process is and what may happen.

In a Daily News article from Wednesday, September 3rd, Mr. Smith suggested that the Ferry Corporation would find a way to do something that works, while Mr. Burns was not quite ready to deliver such a declaration, stating that conversations were continuing and resolution one way or the other would be at hand by next week.

What kind of a resolution he wasn’t prepared to flesh out it seems, but it no doubt is an announcement that will be awaited with patience on the Charlottes, a portion of the B. C. Ferries world that seems to find itself on the short end of the stick more frequently than most areas.

The issue of course attracted the attention of the local MLA for the area, Gary Coons, who as the NDP ferries critic is more than familiar with the troubles that residents of the Charlottes have faced over the years and the feeling of isolation that they feel from the BC Ferries Head office. He addressed the latest scheduling issue on his website last month with a bit of background for the schedule makers of BC Ferries.

It was only a couple of years ago that it seemed like they had been totally forgotten in the wake of the sinking of the Queen of the North as ferry service on the North coast took a huge hit with a lack of options in place to replace the sunken vessel. At one point there was not a single vessel serving the North Coast at all, and other cost and service issues have continued to plague the Corporation on its most northern points.

Now as they finally begin to feel like they are a part of the B. C. Ferry family again, the corporation makes changes to the schedule, without taking the pulse of the community they serve.

It’s no wonder that they might be a tad suspicious of any announcements that come on a B. C. Ferry letterhead these days…

The full story was given the front page headline treatment in Wednesday’s Daily News.

B. C. Ferries teleconferences to discuss latest Islands’ sailing decision
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Pages one and three

A teleconference meeting between B. C. Ferries and the North Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) on Friday has sent B. C. Ferries in to reevaluation mode.

While neither B. C. Ferries nor the North FAC would confirm that the ferry corporation was re-setting its controversial re-scheduling of the Thursday evening Prince Rupert-from-Skidegate crossing, FAC Chairman Steve Smith did confirm the topic was brought up.

“I think that’s what caused the initial conference call because there was concern and because most of the people that called us with their concerns were on the ferry advisory committee,” said Smith.

Smith remained mum about what was directly discussed but did say: “We’ve received a lot of input from the people of the Queen Charlotte Islands and we told them we can’t give you everything that you need but we can do what would work.”

Queen Charlotte Island residents have been upset ever since B. C. Ferries announced last month that it was changing the fall Thursday night ferry service leaving Skidegate for Prince Rupert. Traditionally the service left at 11 p. m. Thursday night but now it will leave Friday at 6am.

Some Masset residents have said they would have to leave their homes at 3 a. m. to catch the ferry and would be reticent to do so in winter conditions.

B. C. Ferries admitted last month they did not properly consult the public about shutting down a popular winter sailing.

B. C. Ferries Community Relations for the North Coast Matthew Burns would not back up what Smith said, saying only that B. C. Ferries is currently in consultation with affected parties.

“We’ll probably have a resolution with respect to one way or the other later on in the week.”

Burns did go on to say that the North Coast community has made it clear to him what their feelings are on the issue.

“We have been engaging with our FAC locally and at this point in time we reviewing our options,” he said.

As for Smith, he is looking forward to a decision soon, noting that he found himself defending B. C. Ferry policy when it’s not his role.

“But in fairness to them there are things that come up – special circumstances in the winter that we don’t have in the summer, “he said.

“When you set the schedule you are looking at an ideal thing under ideal circumstances but everybody knows that it is pretty well impossible to maintain in the winter time because of the weather factor.”

No comments: