Metro Vancouver’s board of directors have voted to give themselves itself a pay raise, as well as a what is essentially retirement allowance.
The decision was made in a meeting late last week and comes in the wake of a review which was done by the regional district, which looked at the bylaw surrounding the pay scale for board members.
The review was done in response to a portion of the 2017 federal budget, which is ending the the non-taxable status portion of the salaries of elected officials next year.
As a result, on January 19, the board’s directors pay will increase by 15% in a move meant to offset these tax changes. This will equal a one-time increase of $131,133 to the budget.
The vote was not without some discussion about the merits of the move.
“[It’s] obviously an awkward position that we’re in here, at the board,” said vice-chairman Raymond Louie, who’s also a Vancouver City Councillor.
He noted the report and recommendation was “extensively discussed” and “unanimously” approved at the committee level.
Still, there were a number of different “aspects… on why each of the components were advanced and recommended the way they were,” he added.
“Part of the attraction and retention of getting people to come to this table and to make the decisions that are important for this region is to ensure that they are appropriately compensated.”
The thought was, he told the board, was that “given the amount of service that you put into your jobs here, that it would appropriate to ensure that we at least try to mirror some of the compensation that occurs across the province and across the nation as well.”
But the biggest talking point during the discussion seemed to be the plan for retirement allowance of sorts for members of the board.
This allowance will equal about $1,100 for each year that a board member has served. A board member would be eligible for it once they are no longer an elected official. It will also be retroactive to January of 2007.
And while the board ultimately voted in the favour of the whole plan, some expressed concern with this particular aspect of it.
“This has been an issue that I don’t agree with and I think it’s going to be very controversial that board directors are giving themselves [a raise] especially with the number of people leaving,” said board member and Coquitlam City Councillor, Brent Asmundson. “I think it would be better deferred to the new board.”
Colleen Jordan, a Burnaby City Councillor said putting the two payment plans in the same bylaw was mixing apples and oranges.
“It’s mixing the question of some sort of pension with a retiring allowance, similar to what the province gets.”
But, she noted, “those positions are full-time jobs and this is not.”
Jordan also raised the question around various lengths of service receiving equal payment.
“While we may have people here who have served for 20 years, we also have people who have served here for one year because they rotate through the councils. Do we really think those people need a 10% leaving allowance?”
While he noted people had concerns around the two separate points of the report, Port Coquitlam Mayor and board chairman Greg Moore said because this is a bylaw, “it’s not like we can spit things out and split the vote. We’re just going to accept it the way that it is.”
Jordan also asked about the methodology around choosing the year 2007 as the range for the report.
“The committee looked at a 10-year window,” answered Moore. “There was no other real methodology to it.”