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Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Reporters as stenographers

Two years ago, the corporate media published headlines about ferry subsidies.

This report, which came during fiscal year 2013, was enough to stir the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation into action. They warned that subsidies to business might have to be cut if government wasted more money on citizens. CTF did not need to worry, the BC Liberals’ largesse to ferry users was less than it seemed.

There appears to have been no recent growth in provincial ferry subsidies. These were $2 million less in the 12 months ended March 31, 2014 than in the year before. We don’t know what the (Read more…)

Northern Insight / Perceptivity: Nature has inviolate principles, Christy Clark does not

A comment left by Lew on an earlier article deserves to be featured. Here is Christy Clark, the premier of our province, speaking as a radio show host just before leaving to run for leadership of the BC Liberals: “Ferry fares go up on Friday. It will be the eighth fare hike over the past five years, and this time BC Ferries says it needs to do it to find the money for rising fuel costs, and since the provincial government refuses to chip in, they’re dumping almost all of those new costs on users.

The impact of the new (Read more…)

Northern Insight: The states of state affairs

Comparing remuneration of senior public officials in Washington State to BC counterparts can leave one astounded. The most obvious examples are at the publicly owned investment management agencies and the ferry operations. Despite paying substantially less to executives, both Washington State Investment Board and Washington State Ferries outperformed equivalents north of the border. In recent years, WSIB earned better investment returns than bcIMC and WSF had growing utilization while the opposite is true as BCF. My review of Washington’s senior civil servants is also demonstrating major differences.

I surmise that rules of open government in the neighboring State are great (Read more…)

Northern Insight: BC Ferries still owed $25 million 2nd mortgage

Under leadership of CEO David Hahn and Board Chairs Elizabeth Harrison and Don Hay, in a deal negotiated before completion of construction, BC Ferries lent a real estate developer almost $25 million for The Atrium, a Victoria commercial development. The loan was secured by a second mortgage, even though, when it negotiated the deal, BC Ferries did not know the final terms of first mortgage financing that would rank ahead of its own security.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote this at Northern Insight: In 2008, the company announced plans to move into 90,000 square feet of (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Ferries’ future foretold

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 few ferry users scattered in coastal (Read more…)

Cowichan Conversations: Maroc’s Public Letter to John Horgan Probably The New Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition

Don Maroc-Cowichan Conversations Contributor

It looks like the power brokers have decided that you are the NDP’s last hope for revival. Of course no one is saying anything like that John, but that’s what’s being bantered back and forth out here among what was once the NDP backbone.

Don’t be complacent when the party’s fixers hand you the mantel of leadership, that’s an empty shroud unless you can re-establish the NDP/ CCF link with the working people of B.C., the folks who built and maintained our once vibrant culture.

They are also the folks who have to get (Read more…)

Northern Insight: War on coastal communities

Christy Clark’s Liberals seem dedicated to punishing residents of BC coastal communities, probably because all ferry dependent communities failed to return Liberal candidates in the last election. A few days ago, BC Ferries announced: “Due to current world fuel market conditions that influence the prices that BC Ferries must pay its diesel fuel suppliers, the company is advising customers that a fuel surcharge will be implemented on the majority of its routes on January 17.

“The fuel surcharge will be 3.5 per cent on average…”

Is this truly a response to “world fuel market conditions” or something (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Lies, damn lies and statistics

In late 2012, BC Ferries published a 14-page self-promotion titled Fuel Strategies. It discussed alleged savings in fuel consumption achieved by BC Ferries’ brilliant managers.

A centrepiece was this chart:

Looks pretty good. Maybe worth another bonus or two. Except, here is the same information portrayed differently.

Not quite as impressive. But wait. BC Ferry’s traffic has been steadily declining. In 2013, vehicle and passenger movements were 27.7 million and in 2004, the total was 31.3 million movements. So, if we look at litres of fuel consumed for each traffic unit, changes in fuel consumption look like this.

. . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Lies, damn lies and statistics

Northern Insight: An example of coastal ferry fares, 5x inflation

One of my readers lives modestly on Texada Island and comes to the city occasionally for shopping and medical treatments and to visit family and friends. He retired on this northern Gulf Island after working there in the rock quarries and then as a gyppo logger.

My correspondent feels the pain of ferry fares. When he and his partner make a return trip to Vancouver, which is 75 miles distant as the crow flies, they face three ferry crossings that total about two hours each way. The fares for a small car and two adults is $199.55 return.

Five (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Without fairness for all

Successful societies are based on equitable treatment of every citizen. That is not to say that individuals must be dealt with equally, rather that fairness is always evident. Does that precept matter anymore to economic and political leaders of British Columbia and Canada? I conclude it does not.

This week we heard that assets of Canada’s wealthiest billionaires grew by double digits. I  learned that one British Columbia mining company netted more from a single operation than the province grossed from every mine in the province that extracts metals. Also, that BC’s coal exporters earned profits measured in the billions (Read more…)

Northern Insight: The BC Ferry crisis is a political one

I’ll be posting more about the changes proposed by government to BC Ferries but there are a few bits of information worth throwing out before I complete a more thorough piece.

While a bloated management structure continues to exist, the executives actually operating the system have suffered cutbacks. Above the ferry management are two boards of directors involving 18 Liberal friends, each paid five-figure rewards and given free passes for themselves and their family members. They supervise ferry management as do two ferry commissioners who work part-time and earn six-figure rewards. No changes are proposed to this comfortable patronage.

If (Read more…)

Cowichan Conversations: BC Libs Slash Ferry Service, Seniors Discounts and Will Install Slot Machines

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Recall the promises of prosperity heralded by now Premier Christy Clark. The LNG fracking and pipelines will deliver untold goodies, wealth and benefits the shameless BC Liberals proclaimed.

Well folks it ain’t necessarily so! The hacking and slashing of all public funded services is underway. Routes will be cut back and the seniors has been targeted for a new cash grab.

Not only that but the hapless Libs are also going to lighten your wallet further by installing gambling opportunities on the ferries!

Here is the updated report from the CBC.

Northern Insight: Ferry innovation? Wazzat?

With 20 directors on two boards and two well compensated ferry commissioners overseeing by far the highest priced ferry managers in the world, BC Ferries should be world leaders in innovation.

Not quite. Norwegian ferry operator Fjord1 has a dozen LNG ferries in service or on order, with the largest equipped to carry more than 250 vehicles. Now, they’ve announced the next generation vessel:

“Multi Maritime has, in close cooperation with the ferry operator Fjord1, launched a new green ferry concept. The ferry is a “plug-in” LNG hybrid, which incorporates several features to reduce the ferry’s environmental footprint. The (Read more…)

Northern Insight: On BC Ferries with Ian Jessop, CFAX1070 Nov. 1

If you cannot see the audio controls, your browser does not support the audio element

Here is a list of directors that served British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. in the fiscal years 2009 through 2013. In this five year period, fees paid BCFS directors totalled over $3.3 million. According to Elections BC, directors and associated companies contributed $1.3 million to the BC Liberal Party since 2005.

Mark L. Cullen Christopher G. Gardner Elizabeth J. Harrison Holly A. Haston-Grant Donald P. Hayes Guy D. Johnston Brian G. Kenning Gordon R. Larkin Maureen V. Macarenko A. Daniel Miller Jane L. (Read more…)

Northern Insight: Bridge for sale, cheap

Province columnist Michael Smyth is technically correct about the status of the corporation, when he writes,

“B.C. Ferries is a private company that acts independently of government, even though the government still technically owns it.”

But, if he believes the statement to be accurate, I’d like to offer him a great investment opportunity, the Lions Gate Bridge, which I’m willing to sacrifice for a one time cash payment of $10,000. Act quickly, Mike.

Northern Insight: Pushing back on the pushback

Anonymous reader argued through earlier comments that comparisons between BC Investment Management Corporation and Washington State Investment Board are inappropriate “apples and oranges.” The person attempted to justify huge increases in executive compensation because “Much of the compensation is based on results over the past 4 years.” This question was also posed, “What are the long-term returns of both organizations.”

First, I’ll deal with long term returns. Since 2005, BCiMC averaged 7.2% annual rate of return while WSIB averaged 8.5%.

Are salaries established based on results? Apparently not for the most senior executives of BCiMC. (Read more…)

Cowichan Conversations: BC Ferries Block 20 Year Old Woman From Ferry Over 10 Bloody Cents!

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger

Rules are rules is the official line from some demented BC Ferries spinner after a rules and regulations freak would not allow a young woman on the ferry over a dime!

Her ‘Experience Card’ was short a dime and rather than slip her 10 cents they required her to top it up at a cost of 60 bucks which she did not have.

So they left her stranded in Nanaimo overnight. Brilliant!

Here is the story from CBC News! (Video)


Left Over: One Dime Short and a Day Late…BC Ferries Sucks

BC Ferries refuses woman 10 cents short on ferry fare Company spokesperson says the rules are the rules CBC News Posted: Jun 24, 2013 8:46 AM PT Last Updated: Jun 24, 2013 8:45 AM PT



Was there no one in the line – up to give/loan this woman a single dime? Is the fare taker, a well paid union employee (as I once was) so heartless that she wouldn’t cough it up herself? This is really pathetic…why not have a small coin box for just these situations (like most retail stores do) so that no one has to (Read more…)

Northern Insight: BC’s slow ferry fiasco

Heading to Vancouver Island January 4, I noted something while checking BC Ferries schedules. Here are the vessels in service today on major routes to the island:

Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay (built 1981) Queen of Coquitlam (1976)

Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay

Spirit of British Columbia (1993) Spirit of Vancouver Island (1994)

Tsawwassen to Duke Point

Queen of Alberni (1976) Coastal Inspiration (2008)

Ships not in service

Coastal Renaissance (2008) Coastal Celebration (2008)

When the NDP formed government, media kept the $450 million ($568m in 2012 dollars) “fast ferry fiasco” in constant play. For some, it’s

. . . → Read More: Northern Insight: BC’s slow ferry fiasco

Northern Insight: Wazzup, ferry riders?

A few days ago, Mary Polak’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced the “B.C. coastal ferries consultation and engagement process”. They invited, “input on considerations to achieve $26 million in savings to 2016 and input on establish… . . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Wazzup, ferry riders?

Cowichan Conversations: BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix Speaks Truth To Vancouver Board of Trade

Richard ‘Hub’ Hughes-Political Blogger

BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix is offering BC Voters, including the business community, a thoughtful and measured approach to governing after years of a troubled and polarized BC under the control of the BC Liberal government.

Give him credit for showing up and speaking truth to those who have been told to be afraid of him and the NDP policies he espouses.

One of these days the MSM will actually report the truth about the economic performance of the BC NDP when last in office rather than glibly re-tell the established misinformation campaign line of NDP mismanagement that has been contradicted

. . . → Read More: Cowichan Conversations: BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix Speaks Truth To Vancouver Board of Trade

Northern Insight: Thumb in the eye of BC taxpayers

The BC Liberal policy is firmly established. Reward your important friends and give the rest – teachers, paramedics, etc. – a firm kick in the ass. Of course, agency directors and senior bureaucrats, especially ones who know where skeletons are buried, are prime beneficiaries.

Remember when David Hahn “resigned” in 2011 and it was announced that he would gain no severance package? Well, turns out he doesn’t need one. He did get a healthy raise in fiscal 2012, including a huge increase to his supplementary pension, even though he departed three months before the fiscal year ended. Also, we were

. . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Thumb in the eye of BC taxpayers

Northern Insight: Reinventing the wheel, timidly

British Columbia has established significant domestic production of natural gas and there are enormous reserves of recoverable gas newly discovered.

Western Europe has identified major new gas fields and North America has vast reserves of natural gas. So has Russia and, using technology developed in the last decade, China is beginning to exploit vast stores of gas.

In other words, the best markets for BC gas are domestic markets. Like automobiles, trucks and marine services.

BC Ferries claims it is being crushed by diesel fuel costs that have almost tripled in the last decade. Fuel accounts for more than one

. . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Reinventing the wheel, timidly

Northern Insight: Fact free radio

Friday morning on BC Liberal radio, one of the trio assured us that BC Ferries has been cutting administration costs and its overheads had little or nothing to do with financial problems.

Shall we test the accuracy of the comment?

Combined passenger and vehicle traffic in 2012 is down by 4.4% over 2010. According to BCF audited financial statements, administration costs are up by 2.1% in the same time period.

Northern Insight: Lying like a cheap rug

Perhaps the largest barrier making re-election of Christy Clark’s government unlikely is its lack of credibility.

The Liberal brain trust decided long ago that veracity should always rank behind expediency. The infamous 2001 platform document A New Era for British Columbia demonstrates that deceit was a Liberal strategy from the start. It was there they promised to “Not sell or privatize BC Rail” even though the mechanics of the sale were already being planned.

Throughout Christy Clark’s government, the standard for reporting is not truth, it’s political convenience. Too often, senior bureaucrat are appointed for PR skills rather than management

. . . → Read More: Northern Insight: Lying like a cheap rug