"News that the Northern Adventure is heading back into refit is a major embarassment for B.C. Ferries and shows they didn't properly plan for the transition period for the vessel." This, according to a provincial New Democrat news release distributed late last month. Not surprisingly, British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. chief executive officer David Hahn wasn't exactly enthralled with that assessment. But what is surprising is that Mr. Hahn responded by giving New Democrat critic Gary Coons a keyboard-lashing. In an email sent to Mr. Coons and regional stakeholders, Mr. Hahn writes, "This is the type of a (sic) negative publicity which undermines the efforts of everyone to rebuild tourism and travel since the sinking of the Qn of the North. It hurts BC Ferries and everyone who owns an operates businesses on the North Coast and beyond. Not helpful and not very smart." Indeed.
In an interview with Public Eye, the company's public affairs executive director Mark Stefanson explained it was "unprecedentedâ€ for Hahn to personally react to such news releases. But "it was a case where he was frustrated. A political statement was made that really didn't add a lot of value except to score some political points." The following is a complete copy of that email.
From: Hahn, David
Sent: Friday, April 27, 2007 5:03 PM
Cc: Coons.MLA, Gary
Subject: NDP Issued News Release
This is the type of a negative publicity which undermines the efforts of everyone to rebuild tourism and travel since the sinking of the Qn of the North .It hurts BC Ferries and everyone who owns and operates businesses on the North Coast and beyond
Not helpful and not very smart
PS I announced this ship would have refts going forward at the dedication so expect another refit in the fall.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2007
FERRY'S RETURN TO REFIT RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT PLANNING, COONS SAYS
VICTORIA - News that the Northern Adventure is heading back into refit is a major embarrassment for B.C. Ferries, and shows they didn't properly plan for the transition period for the vessel, New Democrat MLA Gary Coons says.
In a vague media release, B.C. Ferries acknowledged the ship - the cost of which, including its renovations, was more than $100 million - was "experiencing some issues," but Coons, the NDP Critic for Ferries and Ports, said that statement does not reflect the seriousness of the problems aboard the vessel.
"The release makes it sound like the ship needs a new coat of paint, but it's more serious than that," said Coons, the MLA for North Coast. "The ship has apparently experienced problems with its electrical systems, its alarm systems aren't working properly, the public address system has experienced failures, and fire equipment and life raft systems still need work.
"There's also no working elevator or escalator.
"These aren't benign â€˜issues,'" said Coons. "They're serious safety concerns."
There has also been the "issue" of the sewage system backing up, which is not just disgusting, but a legitimate health concern, Coons said.
Coons said communities up and down the coast and on the North Island already went through one summer tourist season with just one vessel on the route. As the 2007 summer season approaches, tour operators are now apprehensive about limited service again.
"This is a serious blunder that could have serious ramifications for coast residents who depend on their marine highway system."