Premier Christy Clark in Surrey Tuesday where construction workers were marking the 50 per cent completion milestone for the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Premier Christy Clark in Surrey Tuesday where construction workers were marking the 50 per cent completion milestone for the South Fraser Perimeter Road.

Premier takes swing at TransLink bonus pay

Executive compensation was reviewed by province in 2009 but no changes were made

Executive bonuses at TransLink will fall under the scrutiny of an already-promised audit of the transportation authority, Premier Christy Clark said Tuesday.

TransLink paid 22 executives $325,000 in incentive pay last year, under a system that has been in place since 2006.

This year’s bonuses are still to be determined and paid out in the coming weeks to nine eligible executives and TransLink says it is reviewing whether the program should continue in future years.

“I don’t think they should be getting bonuses,” Clark said at a stop in Surrey to highlight progress on transportation initiatives.

“I don’t think that these executives should be getting them at a time when property taxpayers are under huge pressure all across the province,” she said.

“We all need to buckle down and that includes people in the public sector as well.”

The provincial government has vowed to conduct an audit to help find savings within TransLink and potentially avoid the need for further property tax increases or new short-term revenue sources requested by area mayors to cover transit expansion commitments.

Clark said bonuses will also be examined.

But the province scrutinized TransLink’s structure, including its executive pay and bonuses, less than three years ago and concluded few changes were needed.

A review conducted by B.C. Comptroller General Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland in the fall of 2009, under the orders of then-Transportation Minister Shirley Bond, found executive compensation at TransLink ranged from “reasonable to high, but not excessive.”

Under the bonus program, TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis can earn up to 20 per cent more each year on top of his $325,000 base salary, based on prior year performance, and other executives at TransLink can earn up to 15 per cent more.

The 2009 review recommended keeping the bonus pay system, but giving the Mayors Council final say on the payments.

That was part of a series of legislative changes the report urged to give more oversight powers to the mayors – none of which were implemented by the province.

TransLink did respond internally to one criticism in the report – that its 28 executives at that time across all subsidiaries was too much – and has since made cuts in the senior ranks.

Jarvis said TransLink has a “rigorous” process to award incentive bonuses.

“Each individual’s performance is tied to corporate goals, including budget management, cost efficiency and customer satisfaction,” he said.

“If these goals are not achieved, no incentive is paid.”

Mayors Council chair Richard Walton said he doesn’t support executive bonuses in government agencies.

“It’s a political minefield and hardly worth the trouble,” he said.

Walton said there’s been “a huge amount of anger and indignation” from the public directed at TransLink over the need to raise more money for transit expansion.

He said people should remember that the province ultimately controls TransLink through its enabling legislation.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, a former chair of the mayors’ council, said the 2009 recommendation for mayors’ control of bonuses isn’t the only such issue that’s been ignored in Victoria, noting TransLink had long requested changes to help it collect fines from fare evaders.

“We’ve had those recommendations for quite some time,” Watts said. “They haven’t been acted on and this is our level of frustration.

“Whether you’re talking about bonuses, fare evasion, collection of fines, collection of tolls – those are the pieces where fundamentally there has to be some sort of oversight.”