Rocking the boat

Brodie Thomas
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You don’t need a physics degree to understand what happens when you put too much weight on one side of a boat.

Sometimes it seems like there’s so much happening out on the Avalon, and so many people picking up and moving there, the island might flip right over.

A small example of the exodus to the Avalon happened late last year when Marine Atlantic moved its chief information officer position from Port aux Basques to St. John’s.

Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button called it a double standard. He pointed out that the former chief information officer, who took on a new senior management role in the Crown corporation, had no choice but to move to North Sydney. His new role had always been based in North Sydney, and he was told had to be close to the bulk of that department’s staff.

However, even though the chief information officer had always been in Port aux basques, and the bulk of Marine Atlantic’s IT department is based in Port aux Basques, the new employee was given the choice of working from Port aux Basques, North Sydney, or St. John’s. He chose St. John’s.

The excuse Marine Atlantic gave for allowing this relocation of this position to St. John’s was that the corporation needs to attract the best and the brightest to management positions.

“These individuals, especially those with senior level management experience, are often in scarce supply, and we sometimes have to be flexible in order to attract them to our organization,” said acting president and CEO Paul Griffin.

It’s a poor argument for several reasons. First of all, it’s insulting. It implies Port aux Basques isn’t good enough for a working professional.

We at this paper have profiled dozens of ex-pats who now live away doing interesting, cutting edge work. How many would come home to be closer to aging parents and old friends, given the chance? How many people would do the math, factoring in housing costs and commute times in Port aux Basques, and see they would be better off on this side of the island? Is Marine Atlantic saying nobody in the world wants the combination of big management pay and small town living?

Does Port aux Basques have all the amenities that St. John’s or even North Sydney has? Absolutely not. But what Port aux Basques lacks in big box stores it makes up for in community spirit and landscape.

In its defence, Marine Atlantic said it created a new senior management position in Port aux Basques: quality, risk and compliance. But what happens when it comes time to replace that position’s manager? Will Marine Atlantic again do whatever it takes to attract the best and brightest to the detriment of our local economy?

Just over 12 years ago, the On Deck and Below Report recommended Marine Atlantic’s President and CEO be located in Port aux Basques. It certainly makes sense. Is having most of your senior managers 800 kilometres away from the bulk of the work really a good management practice? Shouldn’t the captain and his crew at least be within site of the ships they’re piloting? Marine Atlantic needs to right this wrong.

Organizations: Marine Atlantic

Geographic location: Port aux Basques, North Sydney, Sydney

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