BC Ferries’ fire sale loss in the millions while rates rise

Tuesday, January 19 2016

At a time when British Columbians are facing massive increases in BC Ferries fares, we deserve to know why BC Ferries would pour millions into a refit for a vessel then practically give it away. BC Ferries spent $15 million refitting the Queen of Chilliwack then almost immediately turned around to sell it for more than a $13 million loss.

Christy Clark’s government and BC Ferries are hiding the sale price of the Queen of Chilliwack which was sold to a company in Fiji. However, information available from the buyer, headed by a former BC Ferries employee, indicate that they sold this ferry for only a fraction of the cost of the refit.

This sale shows yet again that Christy Clark can’t be trusted to manage the province’s valuable assets.

According to the buyer of the Queen of Chilliwack, the Christy Clark government pulled the vessel from service on the Discovery Route shortly after the refit was complete and that negotiations for the sale had already begun at that time. You will recall the significant impact that the removal of the Chilliwack had on the tourism economy for mid-coast and Cariboo communities.

Considering that BC Ferries is currently short on vessels along the south coast, I am perplexed about the logic behind the subsequent decision to sell the Chilliwack. BC Ferries also recently cancelled sailings on the Sunshine Coast and in other coastal areas which creates stress and economic hardship for residents of, and visitors to, those communities. The vessel would have had a much greater value remaining in the fleet, even as a backup, than being sold for bottom dollar.

Looking at Christy Clark’s track record of cheap fire sales, we can see that the premier isn’t there for BC Ferries’ passengers or coastal communities, but rather just doing whatever it takes to try and make her budget look a bit better, regardless of how it affects others.

This fire sale follows the 2014 land sale in Coquitlam’s Burke Mountain neighbourhood, where Christy Clark’s government let go of land valued at $128 million for just $85 million – selling one 16-acre parcel of land valued at $5.6 million for just $100,000.

While the Christy Clark government is busy grabbing all it can from the pockets of the middle class through rising MSP premiums, ICBC premiums, hydro rates and ferry fares, at the same time they continue to leave millions on the table in bad deals for public assets owned by all BC residents.

Click here to see the press release that was sent out to coastal media on the premier’s ferry corporation fire sale and feel free to share it on your social media channels if you are also concerned about these government decisions.

Please feel free to connect with me about this or any other issues that you may have regarding ferries, fisheries, environment or democratic reform.

Yours truly,

Gary Holman

MLA for Saanich North and the Islands

New Democrat spokesperson on democratic reform, deputy ferries, fisheries and environment

Editor’s Note: The Op-Ed piece printed above was submitted through the office of NDP MLA Gary Holman. Should any BC Liberal MLA, a representative of the BC Government, or a member of the public wish to respond to Mr. Holman’s comments, the Sounder welcomes such a response.