B.C. Ferries fires president and CEO after 173 cancelled sailings in 28 days

Mark Collins was CEO and president of B.C. Ferries from 2017 to 2022. The corporation announced his termination Friday. (B.C. Ferries - image credit)
Mark Collins was CEO and president of B.C. Ferries from 2017 to 2022. The corporation announced his termination Friday. (B.C. Ferries - image credit)

After a tumultuous few years marked by staffing challenges, sailing cancellations and pandemic losses, B.C. Ferries has fired its president and CEO, Mark Collins.

The corporation announced the decision in a statement on Friday. Collins led the company since 2017.

"As a board, we believe it is time for renewal, fresh ideas and a renewed commitment to the highest standards of customer service, safety and affordability," wrote board chair Joy MacPhail, who was appointed to her role less than a month ago.

"We thank Mr. Collins for his hard work and dedication to B.C. Ferries. We wish him well in all future endeavours."

B.C. Ferries declined requests for an interview. A spokesperson said the statement would be the company's only comment on Collins's firing.

Jill Sharland, who was previously vice-president and chief financial officer, has been appointed interim president and CEO effective Friday. Sharland joined the corporation in 2020, having previously worked for LifeLabs, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and Rogers Communications.

Collins had been with the corporation since 2004, working in a series of positions within the company until becoming CEO in 2017.

His annual compensation totalled $563,052 in 2021.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Collins will be entitled to severance since it was the board's decision to end his contract. The amount "has not yet been finalized," according to the statement.

B.C. Ferries was once a Crown corporation but was reorganized into a public corporation in 2003. B.C. Ferries is a contracted service provider running with the support of a government subsidy.

MacPhail, a former NDP cabinet minister who previously chaired ICBC, was appointed chair of the board of directors on June 29.

More than a hundred cancelled sailings

B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall said Friday that it has cancelled 173 sailings over the past 28 days.

In its statement, the board said the dozens of cancelled sailings prompted the decision to remove Collins as the CEO.

The Ministry of Transportation said in a statement that delays and cancellations "have a significant impact on coastal communities and residents who depend upon B.C. Ferries to access essential goods and services."

It comes after Transportation Minister Rob Fleming tabled changes to the Coastal Ferry Act in February intended to increase public oversight of coastal ferry services.

A 2019 review of B.C. Ferries made the recommendation to ensure affordable and reliable ferry services.

When Bill 7 was tabled in the legislature, the ministry said the changes would ensure it would be "better positioned to work with B.C. Ferries on meeting the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The bill didn't pass before members of the legislature broke for the summer.

"Bill 7 remains on the order paper and can be brought forward in the next legislative session," the ministry said in its statement Friday.

Among the proposed changes is a requirement for the B.C. Ferry Authority to consult with the Public Sector Employers Council and develop plans to ensure its executive compensation levels "do not exceed those provided to similar executives in the B.C. public sector."