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.
Categories: BC Ferries