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BC Ferries head David Hahn is taking aim at a comptroller-general's report that called him overpaid, saying he wouldn't have taken the job if the rules recommended in the report had been in place.

In an otherwise positive assessment, provincial comptroller general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland criticized high executive salaries at BC Ferries.

Her report pointed out that Mr. Hahn, who is president and CEO of BC Ferries, received total compensation of $1.035-million in 2008/9, more than double the average compensation of the CEOs of larger Crown corporations such as BC Hydro, ICBC, BC Lottery, and WorkSafe BC. In that report, Ms. Wenezenki-Yolland recommended the use of public-sector guidelines for employee compensation at BC Ferries.

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Mr. Hahn rejected that line of reasoning Monday. "I'm not a public-sector employee, and I wasn't hired to be one," he said. "If these rules had been in place at the time when I was hired, I wouldn't have taken the job," he said.

But he stopped short of saying he will resign if salary restrictions are imposed. "We'll just see where things go," he said. "It would be really odd for me to pre-empt anything," he said.

The comptroller general's report reviewed the structures of BC Ferry Services and TransLink to determine how each is meeting the needs of users and taxpayers. Both organizations are government-created independent entities, which came under scrutiny after Mr. Hahn's salary was disclosed to be above $1-million.

Among the 20 recommendations in the report:

the formation of a single transportation commission to replace the two existing commissions;

the implementation of public sector guidelines for executive salaries at B.C. Ferries;

the rationalization of the number of executives at TransLink.

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The Ministry of Transportation will decide if and how to implement the recommendations.

Mr. Hahn said Ms. Wenezenki-Yolland's recognition that BC Ferries operations are well managed is a testament to the changes that have been made, but he said the report is biased towards a public-sector mindset. Six years ago, the B.C. government changed BC Ferries from a Crown corporation to a semi-private company.

"If they wanted it done under the public-sector model, why didn't they leave it that way?" he asked.

Mr. Hahn estimated that implementing the recommendations of the report would lead to additional administrative expenses of $3-million to $5-million annually for BC Ferries.

TransLink chairman Dale Parker sent a statement to the news media Monday morning rebutting the claim that TransLink is broken, but would not comment on the contents of the comptroller general's report.

"It's a fair bit to digest, and the board hasn't been able to discuss it in detail yet," he said. Mr. Parker said that TransLink will respond in more detail in a few days.

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