By BILL TIELEMAN, 24 hours
Is B.C. Ferries giving away 355 free tickets to Vancouver Canucks' games to its employees a "totally inappropriate" decision that will mean higher fares or a "pretty normal thing to do" that helps improve ferry traffic?
And were the tickets "free" to B.C. Ferries or worth at least $13,000 if valued at Canucks' cheap seats price of $37, or over $25,000 at an estimated average ticket price of $71?
Those very different responses came after 24 hours obtained B.C. Ferries' documents showing that 355 employees got free tickets to Canucks' September pre-season games.
B.C. Ferries' CEO David Hahn told 24 hours the tickets cost the government-owned corporation nothing - because the Canucks offered them free as part of a roughly $400,000 annual advertising buy that promotes B.C. Ferries travel with GM Place signage.
But New Democratic Party MLA Gary Coons rejects that explanation.
"It's totally inappropriate. Nothing is ever free, especially when you're buying $400,000 in advertising you don't need as a monopoly," Coons said in an interview. "All this will do is affect fares and services to communities."
Hahn disagrees, saying B.C. Ferries reaches thousands of potential customers, especially with televised games.
"I think this is a pretty normal thing to do - it's not abnormal - it's normal that companies do this stuff. It makes all the sense in the world," Hahn said. "We have a monopoly but we don't have a monopoly on where people want to go."
"We can't spend millions on Olympic or broad-based advertising," Hahn said. "It's working pretty well."
But Coons still criticizes B.C. Ferries employee Canucks' ticket giveaway, saying it's like the $1 million annual salary Hahn makes, along with four other senior executives making between $485,000 and $562,000 - a cost that ferry customers must pay for through higher fares.
This story was published in 24 hours Friday