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Despite safety concerns, BC Ferries paying bonuses for keeping schedule

BC Ferries appears to still be paying bonuses for on-time performance despite having said perviously they ended the process due to safety concerns, NDP ferries critic Gary Coons said today.

During debate of the transportation and infrastructure ministries budget, Coons said he'd obtained a March 15, 2012, memo from Glen Schwartz, BC Ferries' vice president of human resources and corporate development.

"As per past practice, only the executive management committee will have on-time performance objectives for compensation purposes," the memo said, according to the Hansard transcript of Coons.

Coons noted that in 2007 former auditor general George Morfitt said in a safety review that on-time performance was a "real concern" since it might encourage ferry operators to cut safety corners to stay on schedule and ensure their bonuses.

In 2010 BC Ferries said in a report, "On-time performance is no longer part of the B.C. Ferries bonus plan objectives," Coons said, and Morfitt wrote in a 2011 follow-up report on BC Ferries safety, "The bonus plan is no longer linked to on-time performance. The recommendation has been fully implemented."

"There's a real disconnection when I start to read Morfitt's report," said Coons. "A real disconnect between what is actually happening with bonuses at BC Ferries and how Mr. Morfitt saw it or how he was told they were happening."

The minister responsible, Blair Lekstrom, said Coons had raised a "valid point" and would get an answer for him as quickly as he could. "There may be more to it," he said. "There seems to be a conflict, as you've pointed out, in what actually was said and now what is said as a result of the memo from Mr. Schwartz on March 15."

Lekstrom also pointed out that BC Ferries' on-time performance has increased every year since 2004.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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