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Council allegations throw fairness of foot-ferry process into doubt for Island Ferries

Island Ferries has concerns about the procurement process for the foot ferry in light of council allegations.

Island Ferries is concerned a process to find a foot-ferry operator has been "unduly influenced" in the wake of council allegations about an agreement the mayor had with another ferry company.

Island Ferries has asked the city and its partners, currently in a process to choose a foot-ferry operator for Nanaimo, to immediately suspend Clipper Navigation from consideration and hire a provincially appointed fairness advisor who would audit the procurement process to date and oversee it going forward.

The call was outlined in a press release issued by the company today on the heels of a council statement, released Tuesday, that alleges Mayor Bill McKay entered into a non-disclosure agreement with Clipper Navigation Inc. to begin discussions to bring a foot ferry to Nanaimo. At the time, the city had leases with Island Ferries and was party to a memorandum of understanding with the ferry company.

The city is currently in a process with the Nanaimo Port Authority and Snuneymuxw to determine which of three foot-ferry companies that have expressed of interest should get a berth in the Harbour City. A technical advisory committee, appointed to analyze proposals from Clipper Navigation, Island Ferries and Riverside Marine, was expected to release its findings in a closed meeting today.

Island Ferries says council’s allegation calls into question the extent to which “the current request for expressions of interest process is being conducted on a level playing field and in an open, transparent and fair manner.”

Stewart Vinnels, Island Ferries president, said the city and port authority have stated they’re interested in securing an operator of a high-speed passenger ferry service between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver and Island Ferries can do so prior to the start of the 2017 summer season.

“That said and based on the information released by the city, we are very concerned that the process adopted by the city and the port authority may have been unduly influenced,” he said. “We are calling on the city and its partners to take remedial action immediately in order that the residents of Nanaimo may indeed be served by a passenger-only ferry in the near future.”