Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Fifty Percent Man


Mark Hume has the latest from B.C. Ferries CEO and all around benign-o-phile David Hahn:

VANCOUVER -- Amid a growing debate about safety issues, David Hahn, the president of B.C. Ferries, has flatly contradicted key allegations made by a safety expert who says his warnings were ignored prior to a disastrous sinking.

On Tuesday, Darin Bowland filed a statement of claim in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in a wrongful-dismissal suit, in which he said senior management at the company ignored his warnings that "there was a strong likelihood of catastrophic incidents" if safety practices were not immediately improved.


Although B.C. Ferries has not yet filed a statement of defence, Mr. Hahn responded to Mr. Bowland's charges yesterday while being interviewed by talk-show host Bill Good on Vancouver radio station CKNW.

"We reject all of his allegations," Mr. Hahn said. "I think what's interesting [is] he never set foot on the Queen of the North during his time here, never was on the Queen of Prince Rupert [a sister ship], was never in Prince Rupert or Port Hardy on any business from B.C. Ferries.

Now, I heard that interview, on the replay during a fit of insomnia at 3:30am this morning, and the softballs that Mr. Good repeatedly lobbed up to the plate were unbelievable.

And even when he pretended to be coming with the occasional high hard one, Mr. Good was really doing little more than serving up gopher balls.

Exhibit A:

"Best as I know," Mr. Hahn continued, "he was only on four or five shifts during that period of time that he was here. I have no documents, or he never came to see me expressing any of these grave concerns nor [did he speak to] any of the senior officers that report to me."

Mr. Good replied: "He does say he warned that there was strong likelihood of catastrophic incidents if the ferry didn't improve safety practices. Did you know that? Did you ever hear that phrase, 'catastrophic incidents?' "

"Not at all. And nor, I would argue, has any senior member at B.C. Ferries," Mr. Hahn answered.

Notice that the way that Mr. Good 'reverse-parsed' the question to make it incredibly easy for Mr. Hahn to completely avoid the substance of the issue which is whether or not Mr. Bowland raised significant safety concerns that were ignored by the corporation.

Luckily, one lone caller did do Mr. Good's job for him when they asked about Mr. Hahn's bonus package.

Turns out that it's 50%, a number previously unheard of at B.C. Ferries.

Given that, it is extremely difficult, if not downright impossible for inquiring minds not to wonder how much cash Mr. Hahn would ultimately save himself if he could fully discredit any significant safety concerns, be they from the FederalTransportation Safety Board, Mr. Bowland, or the B.C. Ferries rank and file.

Or, put another way, when your ultimate compensation package depends on the outcome of a successful public relations campaign is there not, at the very least, a perceived conflict of interest in the making?

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