B.C. won’t scrap rich pension for Ferries boss

Breaching contract would be wrong, expensive: Lekstrom

BC Ferries vessel Coastal Celebration in dock at Tsawwassen.

The province won’t rip up the deal that promises BC Ferries CEO David Hahn a $315,000-a-year pension even though Premier Christy Clark has condemned it as far too rich.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said Wednesday he was not previously aware of the arrangement but breaking it would be very costly.

“I’m not prepared to stand up and break a contract,” Lekstrom said, adding a “contract is a contract” whether it involves unionized labour or a high-profile CEO.

The comment was a reference to when Lekstrom stood on principle and voted against the BC Liberal government’s 2002 decision to tear up health sector contracts to privatize hospital support staff – a move ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada, which ordered the province to pay compensation and strengthened collective bargaining rights.

“I recognize the concern of the general public out there when we see these kinds of numbers,” Lekstrom said. “I did not know these were the numbers in the contract.”

He said government policy now limits future pay and pensions for BC Ferries executives to what is allowed in the public sector, but Hahn’s arrangement is grandfathered in.

Clark had called Hahn’s pension as “way, way too big.”

But BC Ferries board chair Donald Hayes said the legislature confirmed the pay and pension provisions in 2010 when the government amended the Coastal Ferry Act.

Hayes said in a statement the compensation package for Hahn was negotiated in 2006 at private sector rates in part to retain him in light of possible competing offers from other large private-sector firms.

Hahn’s base salary of $500,000 is topped up with a bonus and other benefits, pushing his annual pay to more than $1 million for 2011.