Keep on truckin'

A Delta-based company that ships tractor trailers between Vancouver Island and the Mainland appears to have hired the premier's former special advisor Ken Dobell to lobby the province. But the firm is tight-lipped about whether that lobbying has to do with increased competition from British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. The government-owned private company got into the same business this year, letting truck drivers drop their trailers off at its Tsawwassen, Duke Point and Swartz Bay terminals. Those trailers are then loaded onto the ferry for pickup on the other side of the route. Seaspan Coastal Intermodal Co., which is part of the Washington Marine Group of Companies, has complained BC Ferries has an unfair advantage because it gets an annual subsidy from the provincial government, which amounted to $149 million in fiscal 2009/10.

Speaking with The Globe and Mail's Justine Hunter in July, Washington Marine Group executive vice-president Kevin Irvine said, "I view it to be slightly unfair given that they don't face the same cost structure" - adding the competition has already cost the company one of its top customers.

"Too bad," is how BC Ferries president and chief executive officer David Hahn responded to complaints about the new service, adding that subsidy is only used to keep the company's minor routes afloat.

Now, four months later, Mr. Dobell has signed-up as Seaspan Coastal Intermodal's lobbyist.

According to his filing with lobbyists registrar, the subject matter of his activities will be "government relationships."

Mr. Dobell, who became government relations firm Hill and Knowlton Canada Ltd.'s British Columbia chair last year, didn't return a phone call requesting details.

And, when asked for comment, the company's managing director Richard Plecas said, "My comment is no comment. It's confidential and privileged."

In addition to the premier and his cabinet, Mr. Dobell has also registered to lobby New Democrat legislator Guy Genter and independent legislator Vicki Huntington.

Washington Marine Group has been in the drop trailer service business since the 1960s.

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