08/23/2013 03:38 EDT | Updated 10/23/2013 05:12 EDT

BC Ferries Pay Raises, Bonuses Defended After Company Posts Profit

VANCOUVER - BC Ferries is defending hefty pay raises and bonuses for its top executives, even as the corporation announces a $1-million profit in the first quarter of this fiscal year.

The corporation says it made $4.5 million from April to the end of June — up $1 million from the same time last year, thanks to higher fares and lower financing and operating costs.

Vehicle and passenger traffic was down, but BC Ferries blamed the drop on the timing of the Easter holidays, as only Easter Monday was included in the quarter, instead of the entire long weekend.

The corporation has been under fire recently for handing out wage hikes and bonuses to its top executives while fares increase and routes are cut.

But BC Ferries Chair Donald Hayes says at the company's annual general meeting in Vancouver that the raises are justified, pointing to $26 million in savings and the $1-million bump in revenue.

The company receives provincial government funding, and Transportation Minister Todd Stone has criticized the pay raises, saying it sends the wrong message at a time when government is tightening its belt.

(News1130, CKNW and The Canadian Press)