Transportation minister Todd Stone delivered a huge blow to the Bella Coola Valley, and in fact the entire Cariboo Chilcotin this week with the announcement that BC Ferries is cancelling its Discovery Coast Passage sailing.
The Discovery Coast Passage has been a critical piece of tourism for the Valley marketed as the “Circle Route,” which would see travellers come from all reaches to drive scenic Highway 20 through the Chilcotin and into the beautiful valley where they then caught the ferry to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.
The cut is just one of many in the ministry’s bid to save about $19 million for the beleaguered BC Ferries.
While the government is cancelling the Bella Coola to Port Hardy route completely, BC Ferries is also trying to save money on the backs of seniors by instituting a 50 per cent fare on all routes where previously seniors could ride for free between Monday and Thursday.
It is also reducing several sailings and considering a pilot project to consider adding lucrative gaming machines on some of the major routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland.
The massive cuts to all these BC Ferries routes, to take effect in April, would likely be a little bit easier to swallow if the BC Ferries board had done the right thing and cut the exorbitant wages and bonuses given to senior management.
As it is, the board instituted a two-year wage freeze and rolled the bonuses into the regular salaries paid to executives.
A small portion will be held back, to be earned if performance targets are met.
Had the BC Ferries board really grasped the nettle and made some substantial cuts to the wages of its top managers, a significant amount of money would be saved (it would amount to millions) without a single sailing being cut.
The real challenge that the provincial government faces is rooting out the members of the boards who run its Crown corporations, and in the case of BC Ferries, a private corporation owned 100 per cent by the province.
It needs board members ready to challenge the CEOs and top managers they are supposed to be keeping watch on.
It needs board members who do not blindly accept the status quo, and will look out for taxpayers and consumers.
Then the public will be much better served.
– with files from the Langley Times