Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Hahn, now Hayes and the rest must go

David Hahn's lucrative reign as BC Ferries CEO is ending but more substantial change is needed at the company. The Board failed in its governance role and BC Liberals should now scuttle the directors as well. Purblind overseers allowed Hahn and senior executives to reward themselves well more than the sums paid ferry managers elsewhere. This despite operations, contrary to public claims, being managed poorly, with steeply rising fares, unprecedented traffic declines, acquisition of deficient Super C ferries and growing unreliability of a poorly maintained fleet.

BC Ferry directors are less diligent in oversight of the hirelings because they are enjoying their own tasty bites of the public wealth. All behave like furtive cookie thieves raiding the pantry, each silent when goodies are snatched by others. Complimentary ferry passes for entire families, priority boarding, on-board staterooms and NHL hospitality suites are just some of their perquisites. Directors collect an annual retainer – up to $100,000 – plus meeting fees – $1,200 per – plus travel time – another $600 to $1,200 per – plus expenses. Individuals are not even required to show up; they "may attend a meeting by means of any telephonic, electronic, or other communications facility."

This self-perpetuating sinecure is for most a political reward for BC Liberal loyalists. The Chair of BC Ferry Services Inc., Donald P. Hayes, whose family's prosperity has pivoted on provincial policy for three generations, donated $57,500 to the BC Liberals in two years recently through Hayes Forest Services Limited. Another director, Brian Kenning was a loyal BC Rail board member who had selective memory difficulties during the Basi/Virk trial. Ian Reid wrote a rather devastating piece following Kenning's testimony. Ex-Liberal cabinet minister Geoff Plant has his own connections to the BC Rail fraud and is a substantial financial contributor to the party, personally and through his employer, law firm Heenan Blaikie.

Washington State Ferries carries 23 million passengers and 10 million vehicles annually while BC. Ferries carries 21 million passengers and 8.3 million vehicles.(Ref) The head of WSF earned $144,768 and the head of BCF earned $1,128,139 in 2010. Wayne Follett, CEO of Marine Atlantic Inc., operator of ferry services on Canada's east coast is paid within the range $169,900 - $199,900. (Ref)

Unfortunately, senior officers of BC Ferries used the corporation for personal gain while colluding with politicians to serve the BC Liberals. Each understood that one hand washes the other. Although influential individuals prospered, the coastal economy stands damaged.

The province's ship building capacity has been almost eliminated and ferry services are little improved over a decade ago. With recent revenue shortfalls, maintenance has been deferred and replacement of the aging fleet suspended. Most importantly, the three German-built Super C ferries have been major disappointments. Last week, I travelled from Vancouver Island to Horseshoe Bay on board the 30-year old Queen of Oak Bay. Left sitting idle in Nanaimo was the near new Coastal Renaissance, where it spends most days tied to the dock. The Super C's are only used on days of extraordinary demands. Only one of the reasons is their 22,000 HP engines are fuel guzzlers compared to ships such as the BC built Oak Bay which carries almost the same capacity at the same speed with 12,000 HP engines.

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7 comments:

  1. Another excellent bit of journalism Norm. Where else in the media do you see anyone using even a bit of elbow grease to expose relative salaries for CEOs of other comparable ferry operations?

    And I'd wager that the CEO of the Marine Atlantic ferry operation has a more difficult job, given the rougher conditions on that coast.

    Yah, and those directors... Nice when you can just phone it in from Palm Springs, and still collect the big bucks, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey come on I listen to Blathering Bill as he tells us how great BC ferries is. How great David Hahn is as CEO. He wouldn't give it a biased slant would he. He always says he isn't biassed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The downward spiral of BC, really kicked in with Campbell and the BC Liberals. He gave himself a $60,000 per year salary hike. The ministers were given a 27% salary hike. Outrageous salary's, severance, gold plated pensions, and selling BC's assets and resources, a huge loss for the BC people. Government expense accounts totally abused.

    The corruption in BC started at the top with Campbell and spread right down to the bottom of the food chain. There is nothing in BC that isn't corrupt. The corruption and thieving is so bad in this province. The BC citizens can't keep up with it. We also know the part Harper played in the ruin of BC too.

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  4. A little hard on people running the ferries aren't you? What do you suggest, appointing local users of the ferries who would be willing to volunteer time just to improve the community? I'd rather have someone who commutes to and from the lower mainland by Helijet. Now, that's real oversight.

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  5. What I find most egregious here is the fact that Mr. Hahn's leaving early 'voluntarily' is being trumpeted as altruistic because it is saving us more than $1million in salaries and benefits he won't earn in the next 15 months (as opposed to the millions extra he has already socked away from us while he sits in GM Place boxes, also, allegedly, on our dime).

    Now this crock, coming from BC Ferries' paid propagandists and whatever the heck the PAB is called this week, is one thing.

    But when it is trumpeted, unquestioned, from the Stenographers-In-Chief?

    Well, that is quite another thing entirely.

    Not to mention the fact that it is the real problem, and the reason the Board was able to foist this 10 fold salary inflation upon us from the get-go.

    .

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting is it not that Hahn's departing gift to the ferry corporation is to recommend a multi-year wage freeze to all the peons working for BC Ferries and further service cuts to the most lowly persons, the users.

    By the way, don't bet on Hahn walking away without consulting contract promises that will take the place of severance. As I said in the article, one hand washes another.

    ReplyDelete
  7. J MacDuff

    Let us look at Hahn's record.
    The first loss of a capital ship with loss of life. This is seldom noted.
    An inability to even investigate the event properly.
    The fastest raising ferry rates in history.
    The biggest pension in history.
    The highest ferry rates in history.
    The highest salary for administrators in history.
    I believe the most decline in ridership in history.
    He supports building Navy ships in Victoria. What, did I here that wrong. He went to Germany!

    All of this seems to have been missed by the media.
    If this is how a "private" company can improve a system, it is a rather damningexample.

    ReplyDelete

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