Saturday, November 21, 2009

BC Ferries books some room at the Inn and perhaps books some controversy

There are a few raised eyebrows coming from down south at word that when BC Ferries holds their consultations with the public on November 30th to discuss the proposed Vancouver to Prince Rupert ferry route, they'll be holding it at the Crest Hotel.

The Ferry Service has booked space in the British Columbia Room at the hotel, the cost of the two hour conversation with North coast residents will be 300 dollars.

What has caught the interest of observers of all things BC Ferries, is that the Crest as most anyone in Rupert knows is owned by Steve Smith, who also sits on the boards of the B.C. Ferry Authority and B.C. Ferry Services Inc..

It's that connection that has some raising a flag, that in the wake of the recent controversy over BC Ferries salaries and internal decision making as outlined by the Comptroller Generals report.

The fact that a board member's business interests stand to benefit from the meeting is the optical nightmare that has been brought forward on this issue.

In an article on the online news service The Tyee, North coast MLA Gary Coons outlines how the optics of the decision to hold the meeting a the Crest suggests that BC Ferries isn't quite taking seriously the concerns raised by the Comptroller General.

No details on the decision making process as far as host sites for these conferences was outlined, whether it went out for tender, or if other venues were consulted and such. Attempts by the Tyee to gain a comment from Mr. Smith proved to be unsuccessful, as was highlighted in their article.

The development will be of interest to other operators of hotels and large gathering halls in the city (hello Nisga'a Hall, hello there Chances, how ya doin' Highliner) in you would think that for a quick 300 bucks for a two hour meeting, they would be more than willing to unlock a door or two.

Even the City of Prince Rupert could have found some acceptable location in town for the board to gather (not to mention take their money), the Lester Centre for the Arts, City Hall chambers and the Civic Centre to name a few, any of which cold surely accommodate a crowd for the Ferry Service and remove the potential claims of conflict from the proceedings.

The comments section of the Tyee article (found at the bottom of the article) provide for some interesting observations on the topic, with some commentators suggesting that don't find any overt conflict in the decision, while others that suggest it's just business as usual at the Ferry Service.

It will be worth watching to see if there's any fall out from the decision, or if in the end, the Crest is explained away as being the most reasonable alternative in our town for the public consultation session.

No comments: