Ferry complaints flood MLA

  • Aug. 15, 2008 9:00 a.m.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons has been flooded with complaints from islanders about the ferry schedule change, and says BC Ferries should have consulted before cancelling Thursday night sailings for the winter season. “It is outrageous that the company is planning to eliminate the Thursday night sailing, especially without informing people on Haida Gwaii or asking communities how it would affect them,” Mr. Coons said. “If this is how their ‘active public consultation program’ that they talk about on their website works with communities, it is a complete failure.” BC Ferries has changed the sailing to leave at 6 am Friday mornings starting Oct. 3. Islanders have said that means leaving their homes in the middle of the night in order to be at the terminal between 4 and 4:30 am, and also missing most of the day in Prince Rupert – a day that could have been used for medical/dental appointments, or sports and cultural events. On Thursday (Aug. 14), Mr. Coons fired off letters to Matthew Burns, the employee and community relations advisor at BC Ferries in Prince Rupert and to Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon about the issue. “I urge you to pressure BC Ferries into working with island communities on this ill-advised decision,” Mr. Coons wrote to Mr. Falcon. “The Thursday sailing has been a staple of this run for decades. It is grossly unfair for BC Ferries to cancel the most important sailing of the week. If the company had bothered to follow its own guidelines around public consultation, they would have heard islanders reject this proposal out of hand. If it is absolutely necessary to move sailings around, I have no doubt that islanders would be willing to negotiate around some of the other runs. However, members of the communities that rely on this run for their livelihoods, for their health and for their recreation were not given the opportunity to have their voices heard before the BC Ferries autocrats decided to rearrange their lives.” Mr. Coons also passed along some irate comments about BC Ferries service from a Tow Hill Road resident. The customer blasted the BC Ferries feedback system, the cancellation of the Thursday night sailing and the two-hour check-in time, among other complaints. “Why does it take longer to check in to a rural ferry than an airport for international travel?” the customer asked. “If I arrive on time, I site, quite literally, for 1.5 hours in a freezing car watching employees slowly arrive, smoke cigarettes and dick around. Trust me. I’m watching, because there’s f-all else to do in the freezing darkness. If the BCF check-in system is so incompetent that they can’t check your ID and reservation for regular, pre-booked and pre-paid travel within half an hour before boarding, then maybe it’s time to look in the mirror and figure out how to fix performance rather than download terrible inconvenience on your passengers.” BC Ferries customer relations thanked the customer for the comments and said they would be passed on to an entity called the Northern Services Management Team.