Latest Ferry Fiasco

Small spontaneous act suggests the rising fear and anger in British Columbia's island communities:

Gulf Island travellers impede ferry departure ..Ferry delayed after passengers protest being turned away

Vancouver Sun July 5, 2008


The last sailing off Galiano Island this evening was delayed by half an hour after a group of passengers blocked the ramp of the Queen of Nanaimo after being told they couldn't board because the ferry was already full.

Between 30 and 50 foot and vehicle passengers refused to leave the ramp of the Queen of Nanaimo ferry just before its scheduled 5:55 p.m. sailing to Tsawwassen, BC Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said. "We had no room," she said.

Comment; now why is it that they would have no room. Could it be because they are now operating that portion of the Trans Canada Highway as a "for profit" entity? Cutting staff and services in the name of profit is not good corporate citizenship.

"We had to call in the RCMP because they wouldn't leave the ramp."...[snip]

Further comment: Why? Why would a now "private corporation" look to the RCMP for help? This is something I don't understand.

" ...The Campbell coalition seems to regard Canada's Gulf Islands community social ideas as the provincial equivalent of Saddam's WMDs. It is corporate policy in the new BC Ferries to disdain Islanders and their social values and to disrupt their lives. We who live in the Southern Gulf Islands of Canada are well aware of the deliberate attempt by the dominant ideology to destroy our way of life. Our farms, our schools, our health services, are all effected.

Under the Campbell coalition, BC Ferries has become the equivalent of a US Army Mech Brigade rushing in to destroy anything in its path. And we are at their mercy. That is why no mercy is shown.

Thirty-five years ago ferry traffic between the islands was frequent and free. We were a community. Tariffs to travel to the mainland were no more onerous than a toll bridge or toll highway on the continent. And no one was ever turned away. Foot passengers are not being turned away these days because of increasing traffic. Traffic is falling, falling for many reasons. No one was turned away when the ferries were regarded as a public transportation route because, in the past, the ships were fully crewed. But the new BC Ferries runs skeleton crews and Canada's federal maritime safety regulations restrict the number of passengers because of the limited crews.

BC Ferries is a huge story which reveals, as much as the alleged corruption behind the BC Rail scandal, what is truly going on in British Columbia. We wish we had the time to fully report. Unless the situation was very different from what we face every day, the ship probably had lots of room. This new company that has replaced BC Ferries chose to deny the crewing environment within which passage could and would have been guaranteed. And those people on the ramp knew it, just as they suspect and resent most everything else that is involved in the new BC Ferries.

Related: There is much more going on behind the scenes and none of it is receiving much investigative attention. But here's a few recent items that outline some of the areas of turmoil.Ferry fares sinking smaller islands

Jack Knox Times Colonist Victoria British Columbia Canada July 3, 2008...

So Easterly will be down at the Hornby [Island] terminal tomorrow when residents protest against the provincial government's decision to push ferry fares into even-Bill-Gates-would-flinch territory. Similar rallies will be held on Denman, Cortes, Gabriola, Quadra and other islands whose B.C. Ferries lifelines have become increasingly frayed since the move toward a user-pay philosophy began five years ago. The rallies are being organized by the Rock The Boat Coalition, which wants fares rolled back to 2004 levels. Good luck. There's a better chance of seeing David Suzuki shooting kermode bears from the back of a Hummer than there is of seeing rollbacks.

...This is the inevitable result of the Liberals' 2003 decision to make B.C. Ferries independent of government (at least in theory). They argued that the corporation needed to move toward self-sufficiency and operate free of political interference. What they didn't say was they also wanted it to run free of political accountability.

The Liberals basically devised a plan that locked B.C. Ferries into a course of rapidly escalating fare increases, then walked away from the responsibility for the resulting carnage in coastal communities. Not that there's much of a political penalty to shrinking Gulf Islands ferry subsidies that are now down to roughly 50 per cent of costs.

Jealous Victorians and Vancouverites, ignoring their own massive transit subsidies, have long grumbled about propping up people who choose to live the leafy, lovely island life. This is the rule of thumb: When it's in your own backyard, government spending qualifies as wise investment in economic infrastructure. When in someone else's patch, it's unsustainable waste. But if you want to argue sustainability, then look at the impact on places like Hornby.

...Home port switch may put workers in a pinchThis story by Amy Geddes originally appeared in The Gulf Islands Driftwood , April 6, 2008.

Moving union jobs off Salt Spring will not be good for the island's economy. Will we see the same proposal and the same rationale applied to the Long Harbour and Fulford Harbour routes in the near future?

B.C. Ferries employees based on Salt Spring and Thetis islands may be forced to relocate to Vancouver Island or serve on a new route if a proposed home port relocation goes through.

... B.C. Ferries personnel said they expect Vancouver Island ports will offer more of what potential staff are looking for: affordable living, better access to larger shopping centres, schools and diversity of religious centres. The large pool of regular and casual employees on Vancouver Island could provide sufficient backfill options to crew the vessels, Frappell said. And crews could move between Crofton and Chemainus terminals, if both become home ports.

But the Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee has concerns about how the switch would affect close to 18 staff who crew the Howe Sound Queen . While a few crew members already live on Vancouver Island, the committee’s chair Harold Swierenga said most are Salt Spring Island residents. “We have concerns about it,” said Swierenga. “We certainly hope they will find another way of solving their staffing problems and leave the Howe Sound Queen on the island.”

...Ferry cancellation sparks bridge debateRobert Barron The Daily News Nanaimo British Columbia Canada

July 2, 2008

Cancelled sailings and renewed talk of a bridge to Gabriola Island have residents there picking sides: Unreliable ferries versus a fixed link.

... Although it's rare for a B.C. ferry to shut down service due to lack of staff, there are fears ferry shutdowns, especially among the smaller routes, could become more frequent since B.C. Ferries has less qualified staff to call on for backup when needed. The service disruption also comes on the heels of an announcement Friday by B.C. Ferries' CEO David Hahn that the corporation is willing to spend $5,000 to conduct a survey of Gabriola Island residents to determine if they would rather have a bridge built, or continue with its ferry service to Nanaimo.

While many Gabriola Islanders feel that B.C. Ferries should act to prevent such service disruptions in the future, they are cool to any idea of a bridge linking them to Nanaimo.

Anger over a bridge to 'heaven

Justine Hunter Globe and Mail Canada July 1, 2008

... The decades-old bridge debate was reignited last week after B.C. Ferries president David Hahn floated the idea of building a fixed link in response to complaints about rising ferry fares.

... B.C. Ferries' Mr. Hahn, who has fielded numerous complaints about recent rate increases, saw an opportunity to end the grumbling over fares and service by agreeing with one critic's suggestion to test support for replacing ferry service with a fixed link.

... Mr. Hahn has handed the contentious issue to the island's local ferry committee, a reluctant participant in the debate. He said he is willing to fund a survey of residents to see whether they want to end their reliance on the ferry service that links them to Nanaimo.

... Gabriola is busy at this time of year with tourists and summer residents. Ken Capon, another long-time resident, said he and his wife left Vancouver to embrace the island pace of life. "You put in a bridge and it's no longer an island."

Kathy Ramsey owns Gabriola Artworks. The island boasts one of the highest concentrations of artists in the country, she said, people who could be driven out if the island becomes too accessible. "A bridge is a conduit for what we try to keep away from here."

One resident, Terry, sitting in his beat-up GMC pickup, said he supports the bridge. But he didn't want to give his last name.

That didn't surprise Andre Lemieux, head of the local ferry committee. It agreed yesterday to go ahead with the survey, provided B.C. Ferries provides a clear business plan so people know what they are voting on. People on Mudge Island will be included in the survey, he said. He said the issue is hugely contentious on the islands, and while many residents are opposed, he said there are many people in favour - but supporters tend to be reluctant to speak up.

Gisela Sartori believes a bridge would end the lifestyle she enjoys on Gabriola. Sitting on the ferry with her dog Chinook, a husky, she said is a relative newcomer, with less than three years on the island. The former Yukon resident cherishes the simple lifestyle she has now.

...The ships in the BC Ferries fleet used to be built in British Columbia. The ill-named new class of ferries is being built in Germany . The present regime did not even seek bids from our regional shipyards.

Ferry riders often stuck on Galiano, residents say

Blockade that brought police rare, but Vancouver sailing always tight for space

Tom McMillan, Times ColonistPublished: Monday, July 07, 2008

The passenger crunch that prompted travellers to blockade a Galiano Island ferry and saw RCMP called on Saturday night is a regular occurrence on the island, according to locals.
While police action is rare, island residents say space is always tight travelling to Vancouver and passengers without reservations regularly get left behind.
"It happens all the time," said Susan Friend, owner of Hidden Ridge Bed and Breakfast. "I tell all my customers to make sure you have reservations both ways or don't even bother."

Galiano sailings often run out of room, residents there say.
Times Colonist file:

The last sailing of the Queen of Nanaimo off Galiano Island was delayed by half an hour Saturday evening after dozens of foot and vehicle passengers blocked the ramp. They were upset after being turned back despite visible room for cars below deck.

Under its licensing regulations, the ferry was only allowed to carry 584 passengers on Saturday night. Extra passengers might not have been able to use lifesaving equipment if the ferry had to be evacuated in an emergency.

B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said the boat was not fully staffed because only about 200 passengers usually take the late Saturday ferry. Marshall said three island weddings probably caused the jump in traffic.

However, a rejected passenger says a Galiano employee offered the join the Queen's staff so everyone at the docks could board.
"This offer was rejected," said Ross Simpson in an e-mail. "It's just another failure of B.C. Ferries operational management."

Another comment: I don't know Mr.Simpson. It could be the failure of management but could that failure be almost entirely due to the almighty dollar.

The passengers refused to leave the dock until RCMP were called in. A recount was taken and the first three cars were allowed onboard while the other passengers were asked to leave. No charges have been laid.
"There were reports that some B.C. Ferries employees were being threatened," Const. Mike Taylor said. "I relayed the captain's message that the ship was full and everyone quickly dispersed."
Locals say stranded passengers are a regular occurrence, particularly when tourism swells in the summer. Because Galiano is the last stop before Vancouver, room is often limited for passengers wanting to reach Vancouver.

More comment: Now why would that happen. They are running a "service". That service is to serve Transportation to people who live on those Islands and people who wish to visit those Islands. This is not a selective service. It's a full service.

"It seems to happen more since the ferries cut staffing," said Chuck Garland, owner of Rocky Ridge Bed and Breakfast. "We tell people to book ahead, but you can't reserve for passengers."

Dave Elliot has travelled to the island dozens of times over the past 20 years. He's seen numerous passengers turned away, despite space available.
"You'll see guys yelling and cursing like there was no tomorrow," Elliot said. "It's almost funny, but you're sure glad it isn't you."

Marshall said she was not aware of other situations where people have blocked the ramp after not being allowed to board. Future problems could be avoided if residents inform ferries before hosting large events, she said.

"We apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced," Marshall said. "It came down to an issue of safety."

No, Ms. Marshall it came down to the almighty dollar. I think You could have added another sailing.

Many thanks to BC Mary for her input into this post.


BC Mary said...


I'll accept your thanks for tipping you off about this collection of ferry-related items. But I didn't write any of it.

Credit should go to Jim Scott who runs the absolutely excellent world-news service which he calls SALT SPRING NEWS because he lives on Salt Spring Island.

I visit his site every day for the valuable round-up which he changes every 24 hours. No surprise, as he's a retired newsman exercising his skills in a way that benefits all.

This BC Ferries item is one of the rare posts which focuses on SSI and you can see what a skilled hand he is.

SALT SPRING NEWS is a good read any week-day. Jim takes the weekends off.


Anonymous said...

Salt Spring News

Gary E said...

And we will give credit where credit is due. Thanks to Jim Scott and his most excellent reporting. This has been a very informative read. Thanks to anon 6:54PM for the link to Salt Spring News. One day I'll figure out how to do that. Link, I mean.

BC Mary said...

Me too, Gary. My blog would be a lot better if I could figure out how to do those embedded links.

Nice to see that you have such helpful commentors.


North Van's Grumps said...

Hello BC Mary and Gary E,

Creating hot links are easy at:


"Blog Help" has How do I edit my link list includes in their examples bracketed "li" in front and last one being "/li"). I think the "li" is for light, but who knows, or cares, because as commentators leaving a message for blog administrators eg. BC Mary and Gary E, we are told... along the bottom of "Leave Your Comment" is a line that says: "You can use some HTML tags, complete with brackets a, b, i......"
At the front:
a is for hot links (embedded...)
b is for bold
i is for italics

/a is at the end
/b is at the end
/i is at the end

The above link, is not "hot", in other words you can't just click on it with your mouse.

Here it is:

How to edit my link list

Before you hit "Publish your comment" go to "Preview" and check that your hot link is indeed what it's suppose to be. Highlight the link; Right click on your mouse; go down to Properties (click) and what you should be what you want to see... but not see....oh you know what I mean....

Gary E said...

North Van's Grumps you're the best. This helps very much. Speaking for myself, with time constraints in working this blog, I had gone to google help but only glossed over it. I didn't spot this. Guess that proves that we should "read the instructions".

I also read in one of Mary's threads that you had given some advice but haven't been able to find it. So Thanks very much for this.