MLA Gary Coons and Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee at the hearing in Masset.

MLA Gary Coons and Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee at the hearing in Masset.

MLA and ferry commissioner discuss hearings on Haida Gwaii

BC Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee was on Haida Gwaii last week for a series of meetings in communities around the island.

BC Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee was on Haida Gwaii last week for a series of meetings in communities around the island.

The meetings kicked off in Sandspit on August 28, followed by meetings in Masset, Port Clements and Queen Charlotte on August 29.

“The meetings went really well. We had four public meetings and three meetings with councils and I found people really engaged. They spoke up, raised concerns and really made it a worthwhile trip,” said Macatee, saying issues ranged from the impact of fares on businesses and individuals to reservations to ID requirements to the Northern Adventure itself.

“They were all fairly long sessions and created a lot of ideas and comments…The end results is that the deputy comissioner and myself will be creating a report based on our review and the comments we heard during these public sessions.”

North Coast MLA Gary Coons attended three of the four meetings, and said they were well received by both the Commissioner and residents of Haida Gwaii.

“What the commissioner heard loud and clear is that BC Ferries needs to be more responsive to the needs of Haida Gwaii, whether it is for Elders, sports teams, providing accurate schedules  and those kind of things,” he said.

“Ferries, especially for Haida Gwaii, need to be considered part of the highway system…The whole idea of BC Ferries being part of a tourism product as opposed to being part of the marine highway was a concern that was raised often.”

Other issues that Coons says were brought up throughout the island included both the effect of rising prices on travellers and the price of goods on the island, but also the compensation of CEO David Hahn and the more than $300,000 in pension he’ll be receiving upon retirement.

“[Hahn’s payment] is something that is out of the realm of the Ferry Commissioner right now, even though they have tried to have some control over it,” said Coons.

“And most people just shook their heads when they hear that the price of ferry travel wasn’t among the top reasons David Hahn cited for the decline in ridership.”

The commission is in the midst of a review of BC Ferries service, but Coons says people have been sending a clear message to the province.

“The government has heard from ferry dependent communities, from the ferry advisory committees and from others the concerns about increasing fares and the effect it is having on users and communities,” he said.

As for future visits, Macatee said he hopes to be back on island far more regularly than in the past.

“My hope is to get up to Haida Gwaii once per year, but we’ll see how that turns out. I think it’s important for the ferry commission to hear from ferry dependent communities and the people that use the ferries,” he said, also thanking residents for their hospitality during his visit.

“I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I would have liked, so I do plan on going back again.”