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Groups encourage Campbell to bring BC Ferries back under FOI act

Three advocacy groups have co-signed a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell asking that B.C. Ferry Services Inc. be covered by freedom of information legislation.

“It is time to restore credibility and accountability to the governance of B.C. Ferries,” says the letter from B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association executive director Darrell Evans, B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn and Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Maureen Bader.

The organizations were responding to a report by the comptroller general that found the government-owned ferry company lacks transparency and accountability. Before the government restructured B.C. Ferries in 2003 it was a Crown corporation and was covered by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“The Comptroller General’s report revealed a BC Ferries Board operating in secret, unable or unwilling to restrain the spectacular growth in what they and senior executives were paid,” said the letter to premier Campbell. “We doubt very much that such extravagant payments would have been made if those in charge thought anyone would find out about them.”

B.C. Ferries CEO David Hahn last year made over $1 million and four more executives each made around $500,000. Comptroller Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland found that was double what the heads of some larger government-owned agencies are paid.

The B.C. government's budget for coastal ferry services is $172 million for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

“When public money is spent for a public purpose, it must be accompanied by a legislated requirement for accountability and transparency,” said the three organizations' letter to Campbell. “We hope that you have been reminded of the wisdom of open government, and will act to restore it to B.C. Ferries by returning it to the schedule of bodies covered by the FOI act.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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