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Ongoing bonuses at BC Ferries send 'wrong message'

It was another year of full steam ahead for incentive bonuses handed out to BC Ferries executives. - Boaz Joseph / Surrey Leader
It was another year of full steam ahead for incentive bonuses handed out to BC Ferries executives.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph / Surrey Leader

Despite rising fares and looming service cuts, top executives at BC Ferries still collected big performance bonuses this year.

President and CEO Michael Corrigan got a $64,421 "incentive payment" on top of a base salary that was up eight per cent to $364,000 for a total of $563,000 in overall remuneration – the maximum allowed after a cap on payouts was put in place last year.

BC Ferries' executive compensation disclosure says Corrigan's bonus reflects his "exemplary leadership" that was borne out by the corporation beating its financial target for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Chief financial officer Robert Clark got more than $133,000 in incentive pay and executive vice-president Glen Schwartz got an extra $127,000 based on  performance.

Both of their bonuses were almost twice as high as a year earlier and the two collected close to $500,000 overall.

None of the payouts are anywhere near as high as the more than $1 million that former CEO David Hahn received in some past years until he left the corporation and the government eliminated additional long-term bonuses and imposed the compensation cap.

Managers were eligible for their full incentive pay this year because of the $15-million surplus BC Ferries posted for last year.

In the previous two years, they got only half as much incentive pay because the corporation missed its financial targets.

But NDP critic Nicholas Simons said the new surplus is a fiction because of additional subsidies the province injected.

"The only reason they got their full bonuses was because the government provided that increased service fee," Simons said.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone wasn't available for an interview but issued a statement saying the executive payouts send the "wrong message" at a time when BC Ferries is struggling to reduce its expenses.

He said he will speak to the BC Ferries board to outline the province's expectations for all executives at Crown corporations.

"While BC Ferries isn’t a Crown corporation, they do receive provincial government funding and we would expect them to follow suit," Stone said. "Government is tightening its belt, along with many British Columbians, and I believe that BC Ferries should take the same approach."

Simons, however, said the BC Liberals have had plenty of time to act.

"Four ministers in a row have been saying how disappointed or disturbed or shocked they are when they see this exorbitant compensation," Simons said. "The reality is they've done nothing about it."

The Powell-River Sunshine Coast MLA said his constituents are apoplectic because they're ferry-dependent and have seen fares rise on average 75 per cent over the last 10 years.

BC Ferries has reduced its executive by almost half and cut their overall salaries by more than 50 per cent, Stone noted.

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