Mark Collins is new President and CEO for BC Ferries

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, February 14 2017

This past week, Mark Collins was announced as the new President and CEO of BC Ferries, effective April 1, 2017.

He replaces Mike Corrigan, the outgoing BCF President.

Collins is currently the Vice President of Strategic Planning & Community Engagement at BC Ferries.

Mark Collins, speaking to Trustee Heather O'Sullivan at an FAC meeting in 2016. Sounder File Photo

In that role, Collins has been attending the various Ferry Advisory Committee meetings up and down the coast, something which FAC members say makes them hopeful he will have a solid understanding of what residents in ferry-dependent communities want.

Steven Earle, Vice Chair of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee, said, “I am pleased to hear about the announcement of Mark Collins’ promotion to President and CEO. For the past couple of years we have worked with Mark in his role as VP responsible for community engagement and it has been a very positive relationship most of the time. Mark has attended almost all of our meetings with BC Ferries. He has considered our concerns seriously and has taken our requests for changes to the appropriate departments within the corporation. In general, the responses have been positive more often than they have been negative.”

Heather O’Sullivan, Island Trustee and FAC member, said, “He has had a wealth of opportunities to hear directly from islanders about scheduling, affordability and other issues. I hope his experience sitting at the FAC tables will inform his priorities in his new role with the company, and that his future decision-making will reflect his understanding of the challenges faced by residents of ferry-dependent communities.”

Collins comes with a background as a senior marine executive for the past 20 years, and has been with BC Ferries since 2004.

Collins said, “As a person who was born in Newfoundland, a ferry-dependent island, I understand firsthand the importance of a reliable ferry service to people’s lives...I look forward to working with the provincial government, the BC Ferry Commission, our employees and ferry-dependent communities to deliver excellent service and an excellent experience.”

According to the BCF press release issued last week, Collins’ total remuneration will meet with the requirements of the Coastal Ferry Act. 

As directed by the Act, BC Ferries conducted a survey of compensation among comparable public sector organizations. Total remuneration cannot exceed an annual maximum of $495,000, which is approximately 10 per cent less than the total remuneration currently being paid to Corrigan.

Claire Trevena, NDP MLA for North Island, said she is hopeful Collins is willing to work with government to start bringing down fares, and to make the coastal ferries a viable highway again.

“We’ve seen for a number of years with Corrigan and [previous BCF President David] Hahn, the fares go up and the schedules manipulated and cut in very awkward places.

“We’ve seen ferries removed from coastal communities.

“Collins - he is from the east coast, from a ferry-dependent community - let’s hope that they start working on behalf of coastal communities.”

As to whether Collin’s experience with the local FACs and residents will provide a connection previously missing between coastal residents and BC Ferries leadership, Trevena said, “I would hope so. 

“Sometimes it feels like BCF is tone deaf. One could hope that because he’s been in the communities and meeting with FACs that he knows the unique needs of the communities, the big island and the Mainland. We’re in the weird triangle of BC Ferries, the Ferry Commissioner and BC Government.”

She said her job, as ferry critic, is to question when the government makes big mistakes.

“I think that happened when they brought in the Coastal Ferry Act. One can hope that he has heard from our communities and starts working on behalf of the communities and the island economy, and that means bringing down fares.”

Trevena pointed out that on the Alert Bay/Sointula route, fares have gone up 110 per cent since the Coastal Ferry Act went into place. Other routes have gone up at least 70 per cent.

“That is completely unsustainable, no one’s wages or bus fares have gone up that much. Then we have all the changes in the schedules, which have had a major impact on the communities.”