Million-dollar B.C. Ferries boss says he isn’t overpaid

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By Frank Luba, The Province

Million-dollar B.C. Ferries boss David Hahn said Monday he isn’t overpaid, despite a Provincial Comptroller-General released Friday stating his salary — which includes bonuses and pension — is “more than double that of the largest public sector comparators.”

Last July, Hahn’s salary, including bonuses and benefits was revealed to be $1,034,680 for the fiscal year ending March 31. At that time Transportation Ministry Shirley Bond called the package “shocking”.

But Hahn fired back Monday.

“I’m not a public-sector guy,” Hahn said of the comptroller-general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland’s report. “I don’t run this like a public-sector company.”

B.C. Ferries is a Crown Corporation, where the provincial government is the shareholder. B.C. Ferries is also taxpayer subsidized.

The American-born executive was brought in to oversee a service that is a quasi-private enterprise funded by public money.

“It was an unmitigated failure before [he was hired]. People have to reflect on how bad it was. We were asked to fix it.” In fact, the comptroller-general’s report said the ferry service’s operations were “reasonably well run.”

But she also suggested changes such as separating the B.C. Ferry Authority from the B.C. Ferry Services’ board to avoid conflict of interest.

Wenezenki-Yolland also suggested starting a transportation commission that would regulate the ferry service and TransLink much like the B.C. Utilities Commission regulates natural gas and electricity.

“The thing that should scare people is she’s basically suggesting an increase of administrative costs in the neighborhood of $3 million to $5 million a year,” contended Hahn.

“It’s back to bureaucracy and overload and administrative expenses that drive up the cost of fares,” he said.

“It’s a step backward. It’s crazy.”

Hahn also found it “insulting” that the comptroller-general suggested he was part of the decision-making about his own salary.

“I get thrown out of the room,” he said. “I’m not part of those discussions.”

Hahn pointed out that the ferry service has received $711 million from the provincial government over the past six years and another $150 million from the federal government.

“We’ve given back to the government of B.C. $500 million,” he said. “I don’t recall the Ferry Corporation in the past repaying anything.”

While criticizing B.C. Ferries for overpaying executives, the comptroller-general’s report also criticized TransLink for having too many executives, specifically 28.

Dale Parker, chair of the TransLink board, said the authority had begun studying that problem before the comptroller-general was assigned to TransLink.

A report from consultants KPMG is expected before the end of the year, said Parker.

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