Metro Vancouver mayors are being criticized this week, after voting themselves a 10.2 per cent retirement allowance last Friday.
It amounts to “a little over $1,000 a year,” according to the organization’s vice-chair, and is retroactive to 2007, for board members who leave of their own accord or aren’t re-elected.
According to Metro, it will cost taxpayers $498,000 this year.
It was voted in at the same time as a raise to mitigate the impact of a change to federal taxes that would see some of the pay that officials receive be taxed as income.
The vote wasn’t unanimous. Several directors voted no – at least seven, including four who asked to have their opposition recorded – after expressing concerns including “unanswered questions” regarding the retroactive component, and with directors’ benefits being considered “in the same league as employees.”
Response to the news has been harsh.
Facebook commenters are describing the move as everything from “total BS” and “sad,” to “just plain unfair use of tax dollars.”
White Rock Coun. David Chesney also weighed in, commenting online that he is bothered that Metro “will not release the results of the vote.”
(Metro’s media relations manager Don Bradley clarified to Peace Arch News that votes are counted, “and recorded at the request of the individual and subsequently reported publicly in the meeting minutes.”)
Chesney notes video footage of the meeting shows that both local mayors – Linda Hepner in Surrey and Wayne Baldwin in White Rock – voted in favour of the payment.
“Shame shame,” Chesney writes.
Hepner was not available to speak to PAN Thursday; Baldwin responded by email, noting he was unable to call.
Baldwin emphasized the funds approved are not a pension.
“I can say this – there is NO pension,” Baldwin writes. “It is my understanding there would be a one-time payment made upon leaving the Board and public office.”
Baldwin, who confirmed in January that he will not seek a third term this fall – adds that elected officials in White Rock, as in many municipalities, “receive NO benefits, get NO pension, and get NO ‘retiring allowance.’
“The remuneration is modest and in line with other municipalities in the lower mainland. By way of example, my compensation is less than what my secretary receives.”
Baldwin noted that in his past term, he directed staff to redo calculations on proposed rates because he felt the results for his position were too high.
In discussion Friday, Coquitlam Coun. Brent Asmundson questioned the wisdom of the retirement allowance and raise, given that municipal voters go to the polls on Oct. 20.
“I think it’s going to be very controversial,” Asmundson said prior to the vote. “With the number of people that are leaving the board, I don’t think it’ll be well-received in the public that we have so many people who are longtime members getting a retroactive pension on their way out the door.”
Burnaby Coun. Colleen Jordan said she was concerned the turnover of board members will lead to too many allowances.
Metro Vancouver board members are appointed from the city councils. On top of their compensation for sitting on councils, they receive a per-meeting stipend of $387 for Metro meetings up to four hours and $775 over four hours.
Baldwin and Hepner are among 40 board members.
Six of Surrey’s council members are board members; the remaining three are alternates. In White Rock, the mayor is a director and four councillors were named as alternates, each for one year of the current council’s four-year term – Grant Meyer for 2015, Bill Lawrence (2016), Lynne Sinclair (2017) and Megan Knight (2018).
– with files from Katya Slepian