Tuesday, November 24, 2009

They gots some 'splainin' to do

The platinum crew on the bridge of the good ship B.C. Ferries has got some 'splainin' to do. The provincial comptroller-general reported that executive salaries and director's fees, which exceed public-sector guidelines, are too high at the publicly owned corporation.

Admiral David Hahn replied curtly, “I'm not a public-sector employee . . . " That might surprise B.C. citizens and taxpayers who have owned and financed the fleet for, oh, about 50 years.

Last summer, we reported that David Hahn, B.C. Ferries CEO, guided the company to declining ridership and rising fares but earned $1,034,680 including salary and bonuses during fiscal 2009 while Executive VPs Michael Corrigan, Glen Schwartz, Robert Clarke and Trafford Taylor had compensation packages for the same period that ranged from $485,509 to $561,747.

Washington State Ferries, USA's largest ferry system, operates 24 vessels and has plans to build 13 new ships in the next few years. They hired a new CEO, David Moseley, in 2008 to guide the modernization. He is reputed to earn $140,000. Moseley's former position as City Manager of Federal Way WA paid $110,000, including expenses.

KiwiRail is a state owned enterprise that manages the rail and ferry businesses owned by the New Zealand government. Employing more than 4,000, it manages the operating divisions of rail and Cook Strait ferry services. The CEO of KiwiRail earned $475,000 according to the current annual report.

BC Liberal backers defend senior salary levels and Hahn's entire reign, claiming the alchemist has transmuted lead to gold, or, at least, silver. We've argued that is not the case. Ridership declined for the first time in five decades and new fleet acquisitions were bungled. For example, the new German built ferries fail to match the service utility of older B.C. built Spirit Class ferries.

Now, an early winter storm demonstrates that the Northern Adventure ferry is unsuited to exposed waters between Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii. CBC reports:
I've said before that this ferry is not suitable for the north," said B.C. New Democrat MLA Gary Coons, who represents the riding of North Coast. "It's great for the Mediterranean."Coons said the Northern Adventure has a reputation for instability, even in calm waters.

This ferry has had a litany of concerns, right from the very beginning, when it was known as the 'vomit comet'," Coons said.
Concerns have been raised before now about suitability of the ship. In March 2009, Andrew MacLeod of the Tyee wrote:
A senior B.C. Ferry Services Inc. worker, since promoted to a management position, ripped the company for putting a new vessel into service before it was ready. He compiled a long list of safety issues and called the federal government inspectors who allowed the ship to sail "negligent."
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