Sunday, January 14, 2007

Glen Clark’s return to the public eye

The former Premier of BC and now high ranking entrepreneur in the Jimmy Pattison Empire has decided that the time has come to speak out on a controversial British Columbia issue.

And surprisingly he has chosen the one thing that most associate with his political downfall to try to rebuild his historical claim.

Clark has taken on the BC Liberals over their handling of the many embarrassing situations piling up over at BC Ferries. Clark lambasted current CEO David Hahn over his handling of the Queen of the North tragedy and the recent mishap with a ferry in Nanaimo.

Clark points out that when he was running the show for the Government, it took them only four weeks to complete an investigation into an incident like the one in Nanaimo this week. He compared the speedy resolution to that accident, to the long drawn out and still unresolved investigation in the Queen of the North, which very well make it to the one year anniversary without any form of public information released.

Michael Smyth of the Province, did a wonderful job of examining the Clark deliberations. Suggesting that it’s a bit of image polishing, or legacy repair, that avoids the Fast Cat fiasco, but correctly points out the general incompetence being exhibited in the handling of the many concerns being voiced about BC Ferries today.

It's well worth the read, as it recounts the controversial legacy of BC Ferries both past and present. And reminds us all that the investigation into the Queen of the North incident is dragging on too long without any hard facts being released to the public.

Glen Clark sails into B.C. Ferries safety storm
Takes shot at head of ferry corp. over Queen of the North
Michael Smyth
The Province
Friday, January 12, 2007

Glen Clark's transformation from a socialist class warrior into a money-grubbing capitalist is one of the great political chameleon acts -- right up there with Stephen Harper changing colour into a green environmentalist.

Clark's incredible makeover as billionaire businessman Jimmy Pattison's go-to guy has been a drag for the news media, however. Now that the former NDP premier is busy hiring, firing and making moolah, he avoids his old "friends" in the press.

Except for yesterday, that is, when Clark took a crack at B.C. Ferries president David Hahn for the handling of last March's Queen of the North disaster and this week's scary mishap in which a pickup truck fell from a ferry loading ramp into the frigid water of Nanaimo Harbour.

The Nanaimo incident was eerily reminiscent of a 1992 accident in which a minivan plunged into the water at the same terminal, killing three people. Clark was the ferries minister at the time and ordered a judicial inquiry, which was completed in just four weeks.

By comparison, the Queen of the North investigation has been "a long, drawn-out, tortuous process," Clark told CBC Television, adding he's surprised B.C. Ferries hasn't moved as quickly as he did to reassure the public about safety concerns.

Why would Clark choose now and this particular issue to wade back into the province's political mudpit?

The answer: Retroactive image repair. Clark's mismanagement of the ferry system was a disaster for B.C. One of the reasons we're seeing so many accidents today is because the aging fleet wasn't upgraded when he was in power, mainly because he wasted nearly half-a-billion dollars on three fast ferries that turned out to be lemons.

Given that embarrassing legacy, it's no surprise Clark would break his media silence to sling mud at the Liberals' record on ferries.
However, he is absolutely right.

Hahn's response to the rash of accidents at B.C. Ferries has consisted mainly of butt-covering, finger-pointing, denials and delays.

Ten months after the Queen of the North went to her watery grave, British Columbians are still waiting for a promised safety audit of the corporation.

And because the Liberals changed B.C. Ferries into a private corporation, there's no guarantee they will fix all the problems identified and no way the company can be held accountable by the legislature.

Consider this: The accident in Nanaimo sparked memories of a similar near-miss in 2002 when a ferry on the same route lurched away from the loading dock, nearly sending a vehicle into the drink.

The federal Transportation Safety Board concluded that accident was due to mechanical problems with the vessel's movable propellers -- a chronic malfunction that has happened at least 10 times since 1998. Those same type of propellers power nine ferries in the fleet including the MV Quinsam -- the vessel involved in the Nanaimo incident on Tuesday night.

But when NDP ferries critic Gary Coons tried to ask questions in the legislature about the propeller malfunctions, he was shut down by the government because B.C. Ferries is a private company and off-limits to questions.

His ulterior motives aside, Clark is correct: That is an absolute joke.
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Listen to Nightline B.C. with Michael Smyth every weeknight at 7 p.m. on CKNW, AM 980
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