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Number two at BC Ferries, Michael Corrigan, takes helm

A BC Ferry passes between Galiano Island and Mayne Island while traveling from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011.

Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

New BC Ferries boss Mike Corrigan makes almost half as much money as his predecessor — the so-called million-dollar man — but that's still too high, says Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom.

BC Ferries announced Tuesday that Mr. Corrigan, the No. 2 man at the publicly owned, but privately operated company, will be the new president and chief executive officer, replacing David Hahn who retires at the end of the month.

Mr. Corrigan, a former professional hockey player who has been at BC Ferries since 2003, is currently the company's executive vice-president for business development and chief operating officer.

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Mr. Hahn attracted controversy for his $1-million compensation package, but the B.C. Ferries board of directors said Mr. Corrigan's total compensation will be about 60 per cent of that, about $564,000.

Mr. Lekstrom said Mr. Corrigan's salary package meets government compensation guidelines introduced last year after Mr. Hahn's salary, including bonuses and pension, raised widespread concerns and earned him the million-dollar-man nickname.

But Mr. Lekstrom said Mr. Corrigan, by being paid more than $560,000, is still on the high side and will likely draw public reaction.

"In these difficult fiscal times, do I think it's a concern?" said Mr. Lekstrom. "Yes, I do."

Mr. Lekstrom also said he has concerns about Mr. Corrigan receiving a lump-sum payment this year of about $200,000 in lieu of the BC Ferries' now-cancelled, long-term bonus program.

"I'm not sure it is appropriate," said Mr. Lekstrom.

Salaries for other B.C. Crown corporation top executives confirm that Mr. Corrigan's pay remains near the top.

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B.C. Utilities Commission president Len Kelsey made $215,619.52 in the most recent salary statistics posted by the government. Insurance Corp. of B.C. boss Jon Schubert made $522,178.

Mr. Corrigan said it will take him two years pay to earn the million-dollar-man nickname at BC Ferries. He said he knew he would be making less money than Mr. Hahn, but is committed to ensuring BC Ferries offers British Columbians an affordable, safe and efficient ferry system.

"I think it's the right thing to do at this point in time," said Mr. Corrigan. "I care passionately about the ferry business and about BC Ferries and I want to make sure we're successful going forward. I would like to make a million dollars a year, but that's not in the cards and I knew that coming in."

Mr. Corrigan said he wants to get rising ferry fares under control, suggesting that fare hikes are inevitable, but he wants to keep them in line with the cost of living and rate of inflation.

"I've got to turn my attention to fare affordability and how we have a system that's financially viable and meets, as best we can, customers' expectations around fares," he said.

It currently costs a family of four — two adults, two children and a vehicle — almost $200 to travel round trip by ferry from Victoria to Vancouver.

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Mr. Corrigan said keeping ferry fares in check will require teamwork with the B.C. government, BC Ferries, the BC Ferry commissioner and the public.

Mr. Corrigan said he is awaiting a government-commissioned report on the entire ferry system by ferry commissioner Gord Macatee, expected early in the new year.

BC Ferries' services board chair Donald Hayes said Mr. Corrigan's appointment as ferries boss saves the company $600,000 through his salary and the elimination of Mr. Corrigan's old position as chief operating officer.

Mr. Hayes said the company previously announced it's phasing out long-term bonus programs for senior executives, saving another $700,000 a year.

"The changes that have been made in the executive suite have a total savings of $1.3 million a year on an ongoing basis," said Mr. Hayes.

Opposition New Democrat ferries critic Gary Coons said he's looking to the B.C. Liberals to contribute more money to help BC Ferries keep costs down throughout its operations.

Mr. Coons said if the New Democrats win the 2013 election, they will make BC Ferries part of the provincial highway system, ensuring more and consistent funding for the ferry system.

"We need a plan for increasing ridership," he said.

"We need a plan to get fares under control and we need a plan to ensure that BC Ferries are part of our highway system — and I think the majority of those things fall right in the lap of the B.C. Liberals."

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