Friday, September 17, 2010

Those B.C. Rail Canucks' tickets

It was probably just a sideshow in terms of the B.C. Rail trial.
But Brian Kenning's time in the witness box offered an interesting look at the deep divides in B.C. these days.
Kenning is a Liberal supporter who was appointed a B.C. Rail director after the 2001 election. He was part of the board that recommended selling the railway. That happened in 2003.
But in 2004, the shrunken corporation spent $72,276 on Canucks tickets. In 2005, the Crown corporation spend $29,000 on BC Lion's tickets. In 2006, $45,349 for prime Canucks seats.
Companies buy hockey tickets in an attempt to influence customers. It wouldn't be seemly to offer the purchasing agent for a client $300, but tickets to a Canucks-Canadiens game are OK.
B.C. Rail really didn't have any potential customers to woo. The corporation was reduced to selling real estate and administering a 40-km spur line used by real railway companies. So spending $150,000 on tickets to pro sports looks suspiciously like self-indulgence.
Meanwhile, Kenning testified he was paid $400,000 for sitting on the corporation's board for eight years. Even when it was down to 50 to 60 employees and less than $20 million in revenue, he collected about a $40,000 a year.
And CEO Kevin Mahoney received $570,000 in salary and benefits for heading a company with $18 million in revenues and a few dozen employees in 2007.
What's striking is that this was all going on as the Liberals were putting every government program through a core review.
Anything not considered essential - support for child sex abuse victims, legal aid for battered wives, courthouses - was getting chopped.
But Canucks' tickets for executives at a Crown corporation, generous directors' fees and big management salaries somehow escaped that kind of scrutiny.
Those at the top of the economic food chain did very well. Those at the other end of the economy did not.
Consider MLAs, for example. In 2002, their pay has risen more than 30 per cent since 2002; the premier's compensation is up more than 55 per cent. (The average wage rose about 22 per cent in the same period; the minimum wage didn't change at all.)
Which, if it was based on real market forces, could be defended. But real market forces wouldn't see directors paid hundreds of thousand of dollars to oversee a tiny Crown corporation.
It all suggests a double standard based in which some spending on average British Columbians received close scrutiny; on the powerful, not so much.
Which leads, in a roundabout way, to the latest report on the province's finances.
Finance Minister Colin Hansen presented the first quarterly update for this the fiscal year, covering from April 1 to June 30. Spending is on track, except for - again - higher than expected wildfire-fighting costs.
But, after three months, the government thinks it might have missed the mark on some of the revenue projections. The actual revenue, largely due to higher-than-forecast corporate taxes, will be $2.7 billion higher than expected over four years.
That's enough to let the government move out of deficits a year ahead of schedule. In fact, with a few breaks, it could use the money to deliver a balanced budget next year.
But Hansen said the government has decided about 10 per cent of the money will go to reducing the deficit.
The rest - about $700 million in each of the next three years - will fund tax cuts or program spending.
That's prudent. The current three-year plan freezes spending on the children's ministry and for the solicitor general for three years. It cuts funding for tourism and the arts. Without some extra cash, there will be big problems as the 2013 election draws closer.
And the Liberals would very much like to have some tax cuts to ease the HST anger.
There are tough decisions still ahead. Except, it could appear, when it comes to pricey taxpayer-paid hockey tickets and MLA raises.
Footnote: The quarterly update also included a revised economic forecast, which is mostly positive. Growth is likely to be stronger than forecast this year and the outlook is good, the government says. The big risks include a "double dip" return to recession in the U.S. and a drop in housing demand in Canada.


Anonymous said...

"And CEO Kevin Harding received $570,000 in salary and benefits for heading a company with $18 million in revenues and a few dozen employees in 2007."

Kevin Harding better known as Kevin Mahoney?

paul said...

Oops. Thanks anon. Fixed it.

Leah said...

Higher than forecast corporate taxes - or a much larger windfall than originally anticipated from the HST? My guess...the latter.

Nothing the Liberals say now can be remotely construed as truth as far as I'm concerned...and hell will freeze over before I trust them. They've proven numerous times that I shouldn't...I believe in actions far more than words.

SB said...

Cuts to everything not Campbell or Liberal paying supporters really it seems , what does beg to be asked though is how Campbell has hired 2 guys with such bad memories neither Martyn Brown or Kenning seem to have much capacity to recall much and Campbell paid them so much i know i could remember 10 times what these clowns do where do i apply for a job ?
the rest of us pay for his freinds gains now, and trusting Hansens forcast numbers well lets look at his last set pre election he was off by what 2.5 billion and the USA is at the edge of the cliff the double dip recession is a pretty sure thing from what we see now so revenues here will go down not up , cant wait for the next set of PAB press releases .
I guess that means we will need more perks for more of his buddies because they wont have as much in expense funds while we cut services in health and education , i cant stand these liars anymore from day 1 on its been one set of lies after another load them on a barge send them off to a real banana republic .

Kim said...

"The rest - about $700 million in each of the next three years - will fund tax cuts or program spending.
That's prudent."

Really Paul? Which do you think they will choose? If I had any, I'd put my money on tax cuts. Question is, for whom?