British Columbia

B.C. freezes salaries, bonuses for Crown executives

The B.C. government is freezing the compensation paid to executives at its Crown corporations, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced Wednesday morning.

The B.C. government is freezing the compensation paid to executives at its Crown corporations, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon announced Wednesday morning.

The government says it will also phase out bonuses and replace them with non-pensionable holdbacks of salaries worth up to 20 per cent.

Incentive-based pay will also be phased out for new non-executive staff, except when established though collective bargaining.

"Essentially, we are eliminating all perks and aligning them to what you receive in government," said Finance Minister Kevin Falcon.

"The second [thing] is that we are red-circling all senior executive salaries and any new replacement or promotions that take place will come in at a 10 per cent lower salary. That is going to be across the board."

Last year BC Ferries paid out big bonuses to senior executives, with former CEO David Hahn topping $1 million in salary, bonuses and pension payments. (CBC)

The Finance Ministry said even before the new changes go into effect, the total amount being paid to top Crown executives has already been dropping in recent years.

"Total public sector executive compensation disclosed in 2011/12 was 5.4 per cent lower than in 2010/11. Average compensation per executive was flat. The total amount paid in bonuses dropped 13 per cent, and both the number of executives receiving bonuses and the average amount earned fell," said a statement released by the ministry.

NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston says the measures introduced by Falcon are good ones, but are overdue.

"The Lehman Brothers' crash was in the fall of 2008 and the recession was deemed to have started then ... so it's taken three and a half years to get to a point where [Falcon] feels the need to talk about shared sacrifice by senior executives in Crown corporations," he said.

"So it's a very belated admission that the policy they have in place hasn't worked."

Ralston says there are also important omissions from the changes — both TransLink and BC Ferries, for example, are not technically Crown corporations, and will not be affected by the salary cuts.

The changes come following recent public outrage over the salaries paid to top executives at BC Ferries and other corporations.

Compensation made public

The provincial government on Wednesday also released the list of the top paid public sector employees from 2011. 

Topping the list is Powerex managing director Thomas Bechard, who earned more than $976,504, including salary and all compensation. Just $360,000 of that amount was salary.

The former director of corporate finance with the BC Securities Commission, Martin Eady, came second, earning nearly $650,000 — $197, 351 of which was salary.  The president of UBC, Stephen Toope, was third at $580,000.

The top twenty employees — including executives from Health Authorities, BC Hydro, and ICBC — make more than $10 million combined.

The government has disclosed the salary and bonus figures on a website now accessible to the public.