Salaries for top executives who serve on independent B.C. government agencies will be under the microscope as the cash-strapped province hunts for new ways to rein in spending, Finance Minister Colin Hansen says.

The government announced plans to review the fiscal performance of its Crown corporations, health authorities and other arm's-length agencies this week.

Wednesday, Hansen said the often-controversial executive compensation will be part of that review.

"I think those are all issues we have to address," he told reporters in Victoria.

Eight years ago, the Liberal government launched a core review that aimed to dispense with functions that were not deemed to be essential government services.

Now, it is reconsidering what should be arm's-length services, and what could better be delivered as a direct government service.

"We want to be pragmatic, we want to look at the most cost-effective way of delivering services to the public . . . and if that can be better structured by having an arm's-length organization, then that's what we'll do," Hansen said.

"If it's better to make sure we have a cohesive and consolidated approach to delivering services by ensuring those are delivered by line ministries, then we will do that."

NDP Leader Carole James said the review of independent government agencies is a bid to distract the public from the province's own mismanagement of public dollars.

"It's the old game of, `point the finger somewhere else and don't look at us,' " she said Wednesday.

James noted that many of the agencies now under review were established by the Liberal government in the name of ending political interference.

The province last year released a list of executive compensations at Crown corporations, health authorities and other arm's-length agencies as it defended wage increases for its own top civil servants.

That list showed close to 150 executives at government agencies such as BC Hydro, the Fraser Health Authority and the Insurance Corp. of B.C. who earn more than the $188,000 that Gordon Campbell earned as premier last year.

At the time, the government pointed to those salaries to explain the need to raise the rates for its own senior civil servants. Deputy ministers were awarded increases that averaged seven per cent, while assistant deputy ministers were given an average 21 per cent increase.

Salaries at agencies such as the health authorities are approved not by government directly, but by boards that have been appointed by the provincial government.

Some agencies are more arm's-length than others.

Late last month, the province announced fiscal reviews of BC Ferries and TransLink, the transit service for Metro Vancouver. Those assessments, conducted by comptroller general Cheryl Wenezenki-Yolland, may serve as the model for the other agency reviews.

Wenezenki-Yolland is examining how well the two operators have cut costs and delivered service to the public, and how they compensate senior executives.

The announcement came the day the two agencies released details of their top managers' salaries.

BC Ferries chief executive officer David Hahn earned more than $1 million when incentives and pension contributions were included, putting him in the upper stratosphere of executives within the broad public service in B.C.

But BC Ferries is supposed to be independent of political interference, and officials there have said they will treat the results only as advice.