BC Ferries

Ferries’ future foretold

The inimitable RossK at The Gazetteer has another in a series: This Day In Clarkland…Transport Minister’s Casablanca Moment. In his piece, RossK linked to one at Northern Insight and, although written many months ago, it is still worth reading. BC Ferries is the single best example of how bloated patronage can serve a political party but will never, ever, serve the citizens.

The remainder was first published May 8, 2014.

In a month or three, BC Ferries will publish statements of its financial position and information about remuneration earned by the top executives.

I had someone look into a crystal ball and we’ve determined that in 2014, as in all years prior, the ferry execs achieved key financial targets, improved value to customers at every point along the customer experience chain, continuously improved the safety of operations, improved operational reliability of vessels, terminals and facilities and just got better at everything they do.

As a result, bonuses will be paid. Again.

There may be a few ferry users scattered in coastal communities who do not agree this publicly-owned private-company has been delivering best value for money but, rest assured, the rooms full of directors and commissioners, who regularly helicopter to Victoria for meetings, observed first hand that all the ferries they saw were headed in the right directions.

The crystal ball had one other forecast and we proved it by extending information shown on the charts below. The first shows that traffic has been dropping steadily as British Columbia’s population grows.

The second graph demonstrates that in 2004, there were 7.5 traffic movements of vehicles or passengers for each person in the province. By FY 2014, that number had dropped to 5.9. The 21% decrease may seem modest but in only 36 years, the per capita traffic will drop to zero.

Yes, the trend lines show that by 2050, we will have no further need for ferries. Fares will have climbed so high and service levels cut so low that nobody will use this coastal transportation. Having reduced operating costs to zero, the executives, directors and commissioners will be able to increase dramatically the compensation they pay themselves. The ferry corporation can spend the entire contributions from both federal and provincial government on the suits in the boardrooms who made this possible.

Washington State Ferries is where management costs are a fraction of those costs at BC Ferries. The Canadian ferry system has previously claimed that traffic reductions are common to all system. The most obvious comparison is to the large system across the border and its passenger and vehicle loadings were up 335,533 in the most recent fiscal year. BC Ferries loadings declined 326,786.

Categories: BC Ferries

19 replies »

  1. We have stopped considering Vancouver Island as a destination due to the high cost of BC Ferries, as well the sport team that my son plays for has also cancelled road trips on the island because the costs are so onerous.

    If the government allows the executives to have bonuses for this type of service, then the government is a fool. Oh yes i know, it is lead by the queen of fools, elected by fools in a province of fools.


  2. Consider a trip to the interior of BC, ferries are free, new ferry on the way, and executives with large compensation and a big bonus are not to be found.
    As soon as BC Ferries are free there will be no need for the expensive oversight.


  3. ” Having reduced operating costs to zero, the executives, directors and commissioners will be able to increase dramatically the compensation they pay themselves.”

    This reminds me of the overpaid execs that were running the virtually non-existent rail road spur that was all that was left of BC Rail. We have really turned into a banana republic.

    I don't know how you dig up all the timely and relevant stats you discuss in this post and others, but I certainly appreciate your efforts.


  4. oh, yes those executives must have their bonuses. the poor dears just don’t make enough money. Oh, you say its more than min. wage, more than $12 an hr, more than $15 an hr. O.K. lets find out who their union is and join. we might solve the child poverty problem in B.C.
    Oh, no union?
    Oh, friends of the the Christy Cunch cabal?
    O.K. now we know why they get bonuses.

    These idiots have the ferry system as a non Crown corporation so they pay 10% interest on the debt instead of 3%. now in a province which is so short of money they say they have to claw back child support from women on welfare, who are so far below the poverty line, they ought to be fired as incompetent, that is interesting.

    The Washington State ferries pays way less than B.C. ferries to their CEO and does a fine job.

    The only people who earn their money are those actually running the ferries and those people at the fare booths. The ceos, board of disaster, etc. need a big pay cut and/or be fired.

    If the government really wanted to increase ridership, they might have a few “seat sales” just like airlines and ship cruises. Oh and they need to advertise that so we all know. There is no point in having a “seat sale” and not telling anyone, except that they can say no one cared to purchase at a lower price. When they had “fare sales” and dropped the fare to $35 on certain runs, yes I got on the ferry and went to visit friends and family.

    If the politicians have a ferry system to take, they ought to be taking it, instead of helicpoters. helicpoters are a waste of taxpayers dollars. if the province is so short of money they don’t have money for teacher’s aides for disabled children, then we don’t have money for helicopters. Its not like these politicians are doing anything all that important.

    B..C. Ferries simply does not need a board of directors. Its owned by the people of b.c., Given the M.L.A.S don’t meet all that often at the Leg. they might earn their salaries by replacing the board of directors. half from the NDP, half from the Lieberals, the Greens get a seat, oh and 2 taxpayers, picked at random, like a lottery. They need to have experience using public transit of some form, as a qualifier. Now lets see how it works. Of course I don’t expect to ever see anything like that. B.C. Ferries appointments are just another way to “reward” the party faithful. Its interesting to see how some contributors to the B.C. Lieberals get these appointments and their “salaries” are not that far off from what they “donated” to the B.C. Lieberals.


  5. Sounds a lot like this:

    “Winston examined the four slips of paper which he had unrolled. Each contained a message of only one or two lines, in the abbreviated jargon — not actually Newspeak, but consisting largely of Newspeak words — which was used in the Ministry for internal purposes. They ran:

    times 19.12.83 forecasts 3 yp 4th quarter 83 misprints verify current issue…”

    Rewriting the past to fit the present. Sometimes I wonder if the Liberals think “1984” is a feel-good story with a happy ending.


  6. Readers of George Orwell might remember the passage, which included,

    ” It was therefore necessary to rewrite a paragraph of Big Brother’s speech, in such a way as to make him predict the thing that had actually happened. Or again, ‘The Times’ of the nineteenth of December had published the official forecasts of the output of various classes of consumption goods in the fourth quarter of 1983, which was also the sixth quarter of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. Today’s issue contained a statement of the actual output, from which it appeared that the forecasts were in every instance grossly wrong. Winston’s job was to rectify the original figures by making them agree with the later ones. As for the third message, it referred to a very simple error which could be set right in a couple of minutes. As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.


  7. Federal and provincial government employ modern versions of Winston. Small armies of them, paid for by taxpayers, of course.


  8. What you wrote: “The ferry corporation can spend the entire contributions from both federal and provincial government on the suits in the boardrooms who made this possible.”

    What I read (my mind did an autocorrect!): “The ferry corporation can spend the entire contributions from both federal and provincial government on the SLUTS in the boardrooms who made this possible.”

    I like my version better…


  9. Good one Norm.
    2 questions:
    –can't figure the last graph, WSF/BCF. What's it saying?
    –a while back you had a BCF piece with Ian Jessop and in it you talked about the PR to Blubber Bay run; little population increase but constantly bigger ferries. Is that archived or better yet is there a transcript?


  10. I was going to say “You get what you pay for”, but this obviously is not the case. Okay, maybe with Gwyn Morgan.


  11. The Frankenstein “public-private hybrid” is a bogus cloaking device designed to conceal the sabotage of the 100% publicly owned ferry system. Christy's government continues the neo-right ideology of its predecessor, replete with visceral hatred of public sector workers, the bankrupting of publicly owned institutions so's to sell them for pennies on the dollar them to insiders who've donated to the BC Liberal party and the cloaking of these breaches of public trust by accounting practices condemned by the BC Auditor General, the beggaring of independent regulatory bodies and, in BC Ferries' case, concealing executive parasitism behind the opaque screen of the freakish BC Ferries Services Inc.

    Norm's revealing graphics continue to illustrate the result of BCFS Inc.'s ulteriorly motivated policies in its own terms, fares, ridership, revenues, maintenace, etc. Other, indirect trends tend to corroborate the direct ones which, allowing for time-lags between retrogressive policy implementation and measurable results, probably reveal a high quotient of correlation as well. Loss of business for Gulf Island enterprises, for example, correlates relatively precisely to retrogressive ferry policy because they keep monthly books—as ferry rates and service cutbacks increase, so business declines in conspicuous lockstep; similarly falling real estate assessments which are measured even more precisely—usually weekly in home-buyer advertisements; school enrolments, measured annually, shrink as the cost of Gulf Island living slips out of young families' reach, ferry fares figuring heavily; net employment incomes go down as ferry fares go up for commuters—gross incomes vanish when Gulf Island employers are forced out of business by steeply rising costs—ferry fares outpacing even rising fuel costs (businesses bear both at-the-pump fuel costs increases PLUS BC Ferries Services Inc.'s fuel sur-tax); least precise at five-year census intervals, but corroborating retrogressive cause-and-effect of ferry policy—and probably doing so with high correlation—is population which on many Gulf Islands has been falling (on Hornby and Denman Islands, which will both be affected by the proposed cable-ferry, the most recent five-year census shows population decreases of about 12% and 6% respectively—the first time the numbers have gone down since the Second World War). The impact of raising Seniors' fares, one of the newest BC Liberal retrogressions, can only be conjectural at present but we may imagine its multiplicative effect on the typical income drop experienced by new retirees.

    These losses are tantamount to breaching the duty of care the government created by nationalizing the ferry system, linking it comprehensively to the provincial transportation system and inviting citizens to invest in businesses, homes and communities on the Gulf Islands. That duty of care was a proven success until BC Ferries Services Inc. came along. The subsequent damages are measurable in many ways. It's time to start thinking class action—the evidence appears admissible and pertinent to questions of culpability and civil damages on the preponderance of probability.

    Thanks again, Norm.


  12. I might have a recording of that discussion with Ian Jessop and I will look for it. The Texada experience is a illustrative one, worth repeating. In 1962-64, I was a teenage taxi dispatcher working nights near the Westview dock. We coordinated with crossings of the MV Atrevida between Blubber Bay and Westview. The old tub (sorry Skippers Bert & Chuck) carried five cars, maybe six if they could bounce small cars into exactly the right places. It sailed three or four times most days, able to handle ordinary weather without trouble. Occasionally heavy winds and seas resulted in delays.

    Fifty years ago, Texada had nearly the same population as today but now is served by the 30-car MV Tachek with eight crossing a day. In other words, once the daily one-way capacity was 20 cars daily; today, it is 240. Remember, the population is about 1,200, as it was 50 years before now.

    Larger capacity requires more staff to meet safety requirments. Citizens who travel between Texada Island and the mainland are told they must pay higher prices and accepts reduced service levels because the ferry is running at low capacity. Of course, it is running near empty because it is not an appropriately sized vessel. Ferry users must now pay for bad decisions by management. No wonder, they've been out of touch forever.


  13. Trouble with $1 a year men is that they're usually working for someone and something. I'd rather see people involved who don't come with a background clouded by commercial fraud and bribery, who work for the benefit of the province's 4.6 million residents, not for a handful of business elites.


  14. Lol. I remember the bouncing cars.
    In '62 when I graduated from Max, we hired the Atrevida to take us to Savory Is. in the early morning and pick us up at the end of the day. Even though most of us were weekend millworkers with lots of coin, it was a cheap cruise to our own little “spring break.”
    Try that one today.


  15. Anecdote to prove the facts –

    I've lived in Vancouver for over 30 years and my holidays were always exploring the islands – travelled to Zeballos, Port Hardy, Sooke, Long Beach, even Nanaimo and Qualicum along Island Highway – to Galliano, Mayne, Pender Islands.

    Haven't travelled on a ferry for 10 years, since the change in management and the Liberal government.

    I resent them for that fact alone, let alone everything else the BC Liberals have sold to corporate interests.

    Supernatural BC – a distant memory.


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