British Columbia

BC Ferries dismisses criticisms

BC Ferries top executives are fighting back against suggestions that the president is overpaid and that the ferry corporation is insufficiently accountable.

Says comptroller general's suggestions 'not efficient' and 'not effective'

BC Ferries CEO David Hahn, in response to a report by B.C.'s comptroller general, says he is not overpaid. ((CBC))

BC Ferries top executives are fighting back against suggestions that the president is overpaid and that the ferry corporation is insufficiently accountable.

Ferries president David Hahn and chair Elizabeth Harrison were reacting Monday to a report Friday from provincial Comptroller General Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland.

Wenezenki-Yolland said Hahn made more than twice as much as executives in other comparable public bodies. His total pay package is about $1 million a year, including bonuses.

The comptroller general also noted that the retainers paid to BC Ferries directors were three to five times higher than comparable levels at Crown corporations.

Hahn told CBC News Monday that he has turned the B.C. ferry system around and suggested his style is not that of a bureaucrat.

"I'm not a public-sector guy. I'm a private-sector individual. I think that was well known by everybody for a long period of time," said Hahn.

"From my perspective, we've made substantial improvements and saved millions and millions of dollars in the process."

Turned down outside offers

Hahn also suggested that he'd been offered jobs elsewhere, and that was another reason his compensation package was so high.

"I was getting a lot of calls, to be perfectly honest, to go somewhere else for a lot more money. But I really do have a passion for BC Ferries and like the job, and they decided that was what was appropriate to retain me," he said.

Hahn was equally blunt about the comptroller general's criticisms of the boards of BC Ferries and the BC Ferry Authority. Wenezenki-Yolland said the way the boards were structured created an inherent conflict of interest.

"I think she's wrong," said Hahn. "The model was set up to get the ferry system out from under the influence, the interference, that was there in the past; that it operate efficiently and effectively in a commercial manner. And all the things she's talking about are not efficient, not effective, and certainly not something that would happen in the private sector."

Harrison said in a statement Monday that BC Ferries had been changed from "a dysfunctional Crown corporation" to what she called, "a sound and progressive commercial enterprise."

She also echoed Hahn's comments that the corporation's success was largely due to its leaving a public-sector mindset behind.

"Since BC Ferries was created as an independent enterprise six years ago, its entire decision-making, policies and practices have been built on a commercial business platform," Harrison said.

The top executives at BC Ferries suggest the success of the corporation is largely due to management's abandoning the ways of "a dysfunctional crown corporation." ((CBC))

Harrison was paid $154,000 over a 12-month period in 2008/2009. Other directors made between $67,000 and $91,000.

Harrison did not address the comptroller general's criticisms of their level of compensation.

Harrison said the BC Ferries board was reviewing Friday's report and would meet with the minister of transportation to discuss it.