News of perks paid to top B.C. Ferries executives is drawing an angry public reaction after the publicly-owned corporation took a $20-million government bailout last year.
Details of pay and bonuses to top officials at the B.C. Ferries released Friday showed the total paid was down from previous years, but "annual incentive plan" bonuses for two of the three executives were more than double that paid the previous year.
B.C. Ferries has been afloat in a sea of red ink amid declining revenues as it hikes fares to pay for a major fleet rebuilding campaign.
The province boosted B.C. Ferries' annual subsidy to $80 million over five years to balance its books. Then the B.C. Ferries board approved annual incentive plan top-ups for senior executives.
Joe Stanhope, Regional District of Nanaimo chairman, was part of a group representing all coastal communities that lobbied hard for more subsidies, to rein in "spiralling" ferry fares.
Stanhope, a retired logger, is angry.
"Us loggers have a term for it - pissed off," Stanhope said. "It's a slap in our faces."
He said when the group lobbied B.C. Ferries and government last year to boost funding, it was to lower fares.
"We're going to meet with whoever we can meet - the premier - to start the whole process again," Stanhope said.
After former CEO David Hahn resigned, ending his $1-million salary, three senior officers opted out of a long-term incentive plan worth nearly $100,000 a year. They took a one-time payment of more than $300,000, in 2011.
It reduced their total compensation this year, but that doesn't satisfy a government watchdog organization.
"I don't think there's any patience for (B.C.) Ferries handing out bonuses in the executive
suite, with the way things are going with ferries," said Gregory Thomas, Canadian Taxpayers Federation national spokesman.
"They're planning to cut service. Government has to step up to increase its subsidy. Ridership is falling. And how this group of directors can sit around in a boardroom, and say: 'Wow, it's time to hand out bonuses.'" B.C. Ferries human resources vice-president Glen N. Schwartz took home $127,008 under the "annual incentive plan," up from $62,700 the previous year.
Chief financial officer Robert P. Clarke got a $133,711 bonus, against $60,352 the year before.
CEO Mike Corrigan's annual bonus rose $2,000 to $64,421, for total compensation of $503,930.
The B.C. Ferries board approved compensation amounts based partly on pay scales for executives for 69 large Canadian organizations, ranging from AGF Management to Xerox Canada and York University.
Board chairman Donald P. Hayes, who collected $100,323 in fees as chairman, did not return calls for comment.
Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said taxpayers deserve accountability. "I feel like every B.C. Ferries customer should feel betrayed," Routley said. "There's more sightings of Big Foot than accountability from this government and its agencies." B.C. Transportation Minister Todd Stone said he will talk to the board about tightening pay guidelines.
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