Wednesday, December 16, 2009

BC Ferries faces a Northwest mutiny over transportation plan

The recent consultation session held at the end of November by BC Ferries in Prince Rupert hasn't been particularly endorsed by the locals, as the feedback from participants is that the session wasn't so much a consultation as it was a sermon it seems.

The Northern View has provided a very revealing review of that session which was described by Tourism Prince Rupert executive director Bruce Wishart as an arrogant and condescending process, though that was a relatively benign assessment compared to other perceptions of the event.

Even more damning was the opinion of City Councillor Sheila Gordon-Payne, who outlined her impressions of the session with this talking point for Mr. Hahn, “For the hour that I was there it was certainly not a consultation. There was a total disregard for the people who spoke and one resident who spoke up was treated more poorly than I have seen anyone at a public meeting treated in my whole career,”.

CFTK TV's Sahar Nassimdoost also captured the mood of that gathering with her report of December 1st, which provides the sense of the frustration from the audience side of the consultation's session.

The push by BC Ferries to launch it's Vancouver to Prince Rupert service to many seems to be more about reducing the number of salings on the North coast (and with it we imagine providing cost effective savings for the Ferry Corporation) than it is of creating a link that some question isn't really needed.
With BC Ferries offering up their vision of the future of redefining transportation for the North Coast, (and judging by the feed back from those in attendance, the possibility of further cooperative discussion seems limited), local stakeholders are looking for an alternative channel to push forward their point of view.

Wishart is suggesting that instead of further discussion with the Ferry Corporation, an approach to Transportation Minister Shirley Bond may prove to be a more successful strategy for local users and those that depend on the ferry for their livelihoods.

With the quasi privatized nature of BC Ferries these days, it seems that with each decision they move further and futher away from the concept of a vital Marine Highway link for the coast and more and more into the realm of the pocket cruise industry, geared more towards the vacation planning consumer than the real needs of those that live and work in the communities that the Corporation is serving.

It's perhaps a point that Dan Miller and Steve Smith, the high profile Prince Rupert representatives on the BC Ferry board may wish to reaquaint the Chairman with, reinforcing the importance that the Ferry Corporation has played on the north coast.

Regardless of where the future of the Ferry's plans may lead Mr. Hahn and his organization, in a year where BC Ferries has found itself on the defensive over any number of local ferry issues, the plan to change the dynamic of travel on the north coast and the way it has been presented, may prove to be their biggest challenge and the most divisive one yet that they have introduced to the local debate.

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