Will our new B.C. ferries’ names come out of a cereal box?

A rose is a rose by any other name, Shakespeare told us. Shakespeare obviously knew nothing of corporatism. He couldn’t foresee that a name would come to have immense cash value for promotional purposes or for making a political statement.

But we’ve seen it right here in the Cowichan Valley with the "rebranding" (corporate-speak) of the Cowichan Community Centre. The one I’ve never accepted nor forgiven is the selling of the naming rights to Victoria’s Memorial Arena. It will always be the Memorial Arena not a supermarket to me.

Last week, B.C. Ferries invited the public to join in a contest (www.bcferries. com) to name the three intermediate-class ferries being built in Poland. There are three prizes in $500 ferry vouchers, winners to be announced in July. "This is a chance to leave a lasting legacy in coastal communities in

British Columbia," said the corporation’s vice-president of customer services.

But the contest rules out names of meaning and merit. No geographically specific names such as the Queen of Sidney, etc. of W.A.C. Bennett’s day. You remember him, don’t you, the father of the provincial ferry service? Now there was someone who knew how to name

publicly-owned utilities. Take the W.A.C. Bennett Dam, for example.

But names can reflect B.C. Ferries and the coastal communities it serves, according to the contest rules. Isn’t this an oxymoron given the above no-no?

How about naming our new ferries for famous British Columbians, preferably pioneers of merit not modern-day celebrities of short duration? Nope. Historic events in B.C. history? Sorry.

Did I mention that the names are to be gender-neutral and that they can’t contain words currently used on a B.C. ferry or vessel class name?

So what, pray tell, are we to suggest? The Times Colonist’s Jack Knox certainly had some fun here: MV Always Breaking Down on Long Weekends or the Knot Pretty, Knot Cheap and Knot Maiden B.C. Having rejected geographically specific, historically significant British Columbians and events, what’s left that, to again quote the rules, "appeal[s] to both residents and visitors"? (Speaking of visitors, one would think that ferry names that are readily identifiable as seagoing symbols of B.C. would be of immense value in this brandconscious age.)

Heaven forbid that B.C. Ferries should take its cue from neighbouring Washington State Ferries which is liberal in the use of geographic and First Nations names. To quote their rule book, "Names should represent such things as state adopted symbols, tribal names, names of bodies of water, geographic locations, cities, counties [and] relate to nautical heritage, etc.

"Names for ferries should carry statewide significance and represent our state’s image and culture."

Get that, B.C. Ferries?

Names for ferries should carry (province)wide significance and represent our (province’s) image and culture."

With superb timing it’s just been announced that the latest of our new Arctic patrol ships is to be named for a Second World War naval hero, Colwood’s Chief Petty Officer Max Bernay. I’ll save the Bernay saga for another day other than to mention that he’s the second Victorian to be so honoured. Last month, another of the Hero Class patrol ships was named for centenarian Margaret Brooke who "tried to save the life of a fellow nurse as she clung to the ropes of a capsized lifeboat, after their ferry was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Newfondland…"

These are prime examples of choosing names with meaning and merit, not the schmaltzy labelings of real estate developers – or whatever it is that B.C. Ferries has already determined for our new ferries. Is anyone naive enough to think that the Renaissance and Coastal series of names came out of a mailbag? That they didn’t originate, not with

B.C. Ferries, but at head office in the Parliament Buildings?

But that’s my cynicism talking, sorry. It’s probably because I’m stymied by it all. If we can’t be geographically specific, if we can’t honour people or historic events and must be gender-neutral, I, for one, am stumped.

All the more so by the ferry fleet’s most recent addition, the Baynes Sound Connector which defies all of the abovestated criteria. I get the Baynes Sound part, but Connector sounds like a Skytrain. But there we are, no naval heroes or courageous nurses for B.C. Ferries.

Far better, I guess, to be bland than to choose names with real significance. Whatever comes of the latest "contest" likely will be a perfect match for the uninspiring artists’ renderings of the new ferries which, surely, are the least attractive to come off B.C. Ferries drawings boards over the past half-century.

Oh, I almost forgot: the new ferries’ names are to be "double-barreled". How about Save-On?


Cowichan Valley Citizen