EDITORIAL: B.C. Fed follies

Yes, everyone would like to see the new ferries built here, but at what cost to an already-burdened bottom line of BC Ferries

As soon as word BC Ferries had received approval to purchase three new vessels was out, the whining began.

Perhaps it could be more softly called spin from the B.C. Federation of Labour, but it was misguided spin to be certain.

It’s typical B.C. Fed deception, a tactic to steer people away from the real issues.

“On one hand, the provincial government lobbies the federal government to ensure ships are built in BC, but it refuses to do the same when it comes to BC Ferries,” George MacPherson, President of the BC Shipyard General Workers Federation, said in a B.C. Fed news release sent to the media Tuesday afternoon.

“Almost fifty years ago we built the original vessels, surely some 50 years later, we can build the replacements as well,” said B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair. “British Columbians pay every day for the operations of BC Ferries; so it should be British Columbians who first benefit from any shipbuilding contracts.”

That’s all well and good gentlemen, if you are willing to ignore the structure of the governance of BC Ferries and the realities of the competitive bid process.

First, as Transportation Minister Todd Stone said: “Government does not have the purview to dictate to BC Ferries who can and cannot participate in their procurement process. That’s internal to BC Ferries.” He also added: “Certainly we’d be very supportive of the ships being built in British Columbia.”

Who wouldn’t be in favour of the jobs created for British Columbians if the ships were built here? That’s the motherhood-issue tactic, a favourite of the B.C. Fed.

So, why can’t B.C. shipbuilders put in winning bids? Why do they need a competitive crutch?

It’s a world economy, so compete.

The last thing BC Ferries needs on its financial statement is millions of dollars in extra costs because it is forced to buy B.C.-built vessels.

Does the B.C. Fed believe the people of B.C. subscribe to the false-economy ideals they espouse? Does it not have confidence B.C. companies and workers can compete in the global economy?

If it does, perhaps it should revisit the results of the polls on May 14.

— Editorial by John Harding