BC Ferries profits rise, now MacPhail charts a more ‘people-centric’ course

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Board chairwoman Joy MacPhail suggested that the corporation’s culture needed a change and a fresh start with one that is more “people-centric.”

BC Ferries’ busiest first quarter of vehicle traffic in its history, and a course ahead that looks like a clear path to profitability in 2023, was not enough to save former chief executive Mark Collins from the axe.

As BC Ferries held its annual general meeting on Thursday, it released its first-quarter financial results showing the service made a profit of $7.9 million in the first three months of fiscal 2023, which ended June 30, thanks partly to your taller vehicle. count in the first trimester. At the same time last year, BC Ferries posted a profit of $4.7 million. That profit was made under the supervision of Collins. The CEO was fired last month.

In the first quarter of this year, 2,449,798 vehicles sailed on all routes, 42% more than in the same quarter of the previous year when the figure was 1,720,848.

The reason for Collins’ firing was made clearer on Thursday when BC Ferry Services board chairwoman Joy MacPhail suggested the corporation’s culture needed a change and a fresh start with one that is more “people-centric.” .

“As you know, during the pandemic, many of our team members had to work overtime, they had to fill in during times of great stress while they themselves or their family were dealing with illnesses, and I think it’s safe to do so. to say that the corporation did not sufficiently recognize all those tensions in the people who work with us, ”he said.

MacPhail said that going forward, the hope is that BC Ferries will put customers first. “And to put our customers first, we must have a staff that feels valued, can raise their families on what they earn, and is healthy and well enough to show up for work,” he said.

Interim CEO Jill Sharland said that was her goal when she took over.

“Focus on our employees, make sure we recognize them, make sure they’re excited to come to work every day and want to choose a career at BC Ferries,” he said. “From my perspective, it’s the number one priority.”

MacPhail made it clear that things are going to change at BC Ferries, and that didn’t end with the CEO change. “I think I speak for our entire board of directors and we trust that our company is committed to taking a new approach to the business through collaboration, listening and a willingness to consider all points of view, resulting in a ferry service that puts people first,” he said.

MacPhail said priorities should be a commitment to indigenous reconciliation, better communication with coastal communities that depend on the ferry system, better communication with the more than 5,000 employees, and a focus on sustainability and greenhouse gas reduction. .

Ferry users who tuned in on Thursday to make sure the board and interim chief executive understood the issues at hand were clear they demand improvement, particularly when it comes to routes to the Gulf Islands and the Costa del Sol.

Greater capacity, greater reliability and better boats on smaller and secondary routes were at the top of many wish lists.

Sharland told the meeting that those concerns have been heard and that addressing both short-term and long-term capacity is on the agenda and will be part of the company’s presentation to the province this year. “In the immediate short term, we are in talks to see what we can do next summer with the province,” he said. “We hope to find a solution.”

MacPhail said analysis and discussion will begin this fall on the new vision for the corporation. It will include how best to improve service on routes under pressure in the Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast.

“We will start a strong exercise among all those who depend on the ferry system and are responsible for making sure that the ferry system is part of a sound strategic economic plan,” he said, adding that it will be about balancing the interests of the people who depend on the service with the economic interests of the province.

Sharland said BC Ferries’ future is about improving its relationships, showing it cares about people and helping them recover from the stress of the past two years.

She said the company’s capital program to replace ships and upgrade terminals has restarted after being shelved during the pandemic and will continue to add to its employment ranks.

A “robust and professional” search for a new chief executive began this week, MacPhail said.

aduffy@timecolonist.com

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