Pension ‘outrageous’: MLA Coons

  • Jul. 20, 2011 5:00 p.m.

“Just outrageous” is how North Coast MLA Gary Coons is describing BC Ferries chief executive David Hahn’s double pension, and he says the NDP will do everything it can to get rid of it. Recent freedom of information requests turned up the news that the BC Ferries board approved several years ago a second pension for Mr. Hahn worth $237,000 a year. Mr. Hahn is also entitled to receive, in his retirement, $77,580 a year as a public sector pension. “It’s a treasure chest of benefits, and he’s going to get it for life,” Mr. Coons said. “People are really shocked and outraged about this, it’s excessive.” Mr. Hahn makes over $1-million a year as head of BC Ferries. NDP leader Adrian Dix and Mr. Coons sent a letter last week to Premier Christy Clark requesting that she order an immediate review of Mr. Hahn’s pension. “During the BC Liberal leadership campaign, you remarked that it was inappropriate for Mr. Hahn to consider hiking ferry fares while he and other executives at BC Ferries enjoyed exorbitant compensation packages funded by public dollars,” they wrote. “On that note, I anticipate you will follow through on our request.” Mr. Coons said he hasn’t heard a response yet, but said Ms Clark should not duck the issue by saying the decisions were made by the BC Ferries board of directors and had nothing to do with the provincial government. “The buck stops at the premier’s desk,” Mr. Coons said, adding that the provincial government has two appointees on the board. “Even though Christy Clark said there’s going to be no more monkey business… She was the deputy premier who opened the gates to the monkey house!” Mr. Coons said he didn’t want to hear excuses from the government such as they can’t change parts of a contract agreed to by the BC Ferries board. “They say they can’t rip up a contract,” he said. “They’ve ripped up teachers’ contracts, they’ve ripped up health care workers’ contracts, what’s stopping them now?” The thing that really irks the citizens who have called Mr. Coons’s office to voice their opinion, he said, is that Mr. Hahn has steered BC Ferries through the biggest fare increases the corporation has ever seen. Coastal communities are suffering as a result, he said. He also compared the Hahn pension to the payout received by the survivors of the Queen of the North. Most of the survivors received a few hundred dollars in compensation for their horrifying ordeal, after legal fees were subtracted. The compensation that was divided among all the survivors amounted to $150,000, Mr. Coon said. “David Hahn’s first year pension is basically double what the survivors got,” he said. “It’s just scandalous and embarrassing. It’s really embarrassing for this government.” BC Ferries issued a news release in response to the outcry, defending Mr. Hahn’s pension and compensation arrangements. Board chair Donald Hayes said Mr. Hahn and other senior executives deserved to be paid at private sector rates, not public sector rates, because BC Ferries was supposed to perform like a private company. Mr. Hahn’s pension was increased in 2006, Mr. Hayes said, when the board re-negotiated his employment contract to 2013. The new compensation package reflected Mr. Hahn’s progress in renewing and restructuring BC Ferries, and to prevent other corporations from recruiting Mr. Hahn.

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