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Severance pay for rail execs questioned Add to ...

For six years, BC Rail executives have managed 38 kilometres of track and zero trains. Now Transportation Minister Shirley Bond is defending almost $600,000 in severance for two executives as her ministry absorbs a shell of a Crown corporation.

"I think people understand severance is a normal part of an employment process," Ms. Bond told reporters in Victoria.

Members of the opposition New Democratic Party were tripping over each other to mock the payout.

"We have a railway with a board of directors, with no trains, no engines, no steam, not even the Thomas the Tank [Engine] and the directors are being paid $600,000 in severance," said NDP MLA Mike Farnworth.

New Democrat Leonard Krog questioned what the executives did when they were working.

"When you add up the salaries of the executive and probably the most underworked corporate board in the history of the province of British Columbia, it's over $10-million - money that could have been spent on the public good in a myriad of ways," he said. "Instead, it went into the fat salaries of executives who were riding their own personal gravy train."

The province sold most of the Crown corporation's assets in 2004 in a controversial deal, but retained a spur line and some real estate holdings. Since the sale six years ago, it has spent just over $10-million in executive compensation.

Last month, the province announced it would wind down the Crown corporation and hand over the remaining assets and duties to Ms. Bond's ministry. Those tasks include overseeing lease agreements, disposing of remaining land assets and "facilitating" the B.C. Ports Strategy.

To clear out their desks by the end of the month, Kevin Mahoney, CEO of BC Rail, will receive $392,000 and John Lusney, vice-president of real estate, will be paid $203,000.

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