Despite a first quarter having a record high number of vehicle traffic under the tenure of the former CEO, BC Ferries says the decision to end Mark Collins’ contract was due to a desire for a change in culture for the company.
The first quarter for the company ended on June 30, and Collins’s contract with the company was terminated on July 22 after serving as CEO since 2017.
In a news release, BC Ferries boasts the first quarter of this year had the highest ever level of vehicle traffic in a first quarter.
“This quarter marked the highest ever first quarter for vehicle traffic,” a news release said. “In the first three months, passenger and vehicle traffic increased 74 per cent and 42 per cent respectively, compared to the same period in the prior year.”
Though the news release notes that compared to a pre-pandemic year, vehicle traffic only increased by 3.8 per cent compared to 2020 and is 6.3 per cent lower for passenger traffic.
During the BC Ferries Annual General Meeting, CHEK News asked Joy MacPhail, the chair of the BC Ferries board of directors, given the record-high levels of vehicle traffic, why the decision was made to end Collins’ contract.
“The board considered going forward wanting a fresh start with a people-centred culture that takes into account all of our employee’s safety in the corporation, passengers, communities that we serve, and we made a decision to begin a search for a new CEO,” MacPhail said. “In the meantime, there is a board yesterday established a robust and professional search to select the company’s permanent CEO and that will start immediately.”
MacPhail says a “people-centred” culture is one that acknowledges the extra work and overtime that workers have been putting in, that customers are put first and staff feel valued.
The search for a new CEO for the company has now begun, and MacPhail says there are specific things the company is hoping the incoming CEO can address.
“Indigenous relations, people-centered culture at the corporation, working more closely to enhance and amplify our communications with communities we serve directly and rely on our corporation, developing a robust vision for the future that takes into account economic growth around the communities that we serve, and ensuring environmental sustainability amongst our operations,” MacPhail said.
Concern over the consistency of ferries raised by coastal residents
During the AGM, the public was offered a chance to ask questions of MacPhail, Jill Sharland, BC Ferries’ interim president and CEO, and Lecia Stewart, chair of the B.C. Ferry Authority.
During the almost hour-and-a-half question period, many people raised concerns with the three about consistency of the ferries between the smaller islands. The Sunshine Coast, Hornby Island, and Denman Island were three areas that were brought up multiple times by several different people.
To each, Sharland would say the ferry company is making an effort to improve the situation, but stopped short of offering specific steps being considered.
“What I will tell you is the discussion is still active internally and we’re looking forward to finding a solution,” Sharland said in response to a representative of the Hornby Island Residents and Ratepayers Association.
The BC Ferry and Marine Worker’s union also addressed concerns about treatment of workers as well as compensation given the rising cost of living.
“What I can tell you is that there is a new compensation plan that we can address that the ferry authority is working on right now,” MacPhail said, also noting the company is working to address treatment of the ferry workers both from the company, and from passengers.