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The BC Ferries vessel Queen of Oak Bay approaches the dock at the Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver, B.C., in March 2013.

Darryl Dyck/The Globe and Mail

Premier Christy Clark says she's "not happy" with executive bonuses at BC Ferries, but isn't saying exactly what she thinks should be done about the controversial issue.

On Monday, Ms. Clark told an unrelated news conference that she is siding with those who want "realistic compensation" for those running the province's ferry system – a stand that comes after the corporation missed a deadline set by her transportation minister to come up with a game plan for dealing with the file.

"I'm not happy with these constant reports about the remuneration at BC Ferries," Ms. Clark said. "Most people who take BC Ferries when you're shelling out almost a hundred dollars to get your family somewhere back and forth on the system aren't happy about how much those guys get paid, and neither am I."

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But B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Ms. Clark's expressed concern was ridiculous given she has raised the matter before, but done nothing about it despite having been in power since 2011.

"To describe her comments as disingenuous would, I think, be generous," Mr. Dix said, recalling several cases where Ms. Clark has called for action. "She complains about it in public but doesn't act. It's completely dishonest."

One executive vice-president recently saw his "annual incentive pay" increase by $64,298, while another saw a $73,359 increase. BC Ferries chair Donald Hayes, at the corporation's annual general meeting in August, said bonuses are required to attract and hold quality staff and said the executive team has found general savings in ferry operations worth $26-million.

But critics have expressed concerns about the contradiction of increased executive bonuses amid route reductions, declining ridership and increased taxpayer subsidies.

Mr. Dix noted the NDP has proposed changes to the Coastal Ferries Act to apply the same rules to BC Ferries as are applied to bonuses elsewhere in the public sector. "The fact that [Ms. Clark] won't act indicates what her real views are: that she doesn't care," Mr. Dix said.

He said MLAs could be dealing with the issue now, but the Liberal government has scrapped the fall sitting of the legislature. It was a mistake, he has said, to exclude BC Ferries from public-sector wage restraints announced in July, 2012.

In early September, Transportation Minister Todd Stone gave the board of BC Ferries 30 days to come up with changes to the bonus system for top executives. But a BC Ferries spokeswoman said Monday the corporation is not yet ready to respond to the government's concerns.

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"The board of directors is actively working on that issue," Deborah Marshall said in an interview. She declined to say when BC Ferries would be ready to comment.

While Mr. Stone was unavailable for comment, his office said the minister has been in touch with Mr. Hayes, chair of BC Ferries, about a plan to change the executive compensation pay structure. "While no specific date was set, we expect to hear back in the near future," said a statement issued by the minister's office.

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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