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HomeBusinessDouble dipping: Ex-mayor Cote received big paycheques from Metro Van and New West last year

Double dipping: Ex-mayor Cote received big paycheques from Metro Van and New West last year

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Bob Mackin

One of the highest-paid public officials in the Lower Mainland last year, costing taxpayers almost $350,000, was the former mayor of New Westminster.

Ex-New Westminster Mayor Jonathan X. Cote (X/Cote)

Metro Vancouver paid Jonathan Cote $237,303 in salary, expenses and taxable benefits in 2023 as the regional district’s deputy general manager of regional planning and housing development.

New Westminster’s statement of financial information for 2023 shows the Royal City’s mayor from 2014 to 2022 also received $106,443 under the civic “transitional allowance” scheme. 

Under a 2010 policy, politicians in New Westminster are entitled to 10% of their annual pay for each year of service from 2008 onwards, up to 12 years. Cote, paid $116,860 in his final year as mayor, spent nine years as a city councillor from 2009 to 2014 before winning the top job. He retired in 2022 instead of running for a third term. 

By comparison, Premier David Eby’s annual pay is $227,111.

Last October, a majority of city councillors defeated a motion by New West Progressives’ Coun. Daniel Fontaine to end double-dipping. Fontaine wanted the entitlement cancelled if a former council member got a new job within a year of leaving office. Coun. Paul Minhas, the other New West Progressive, said he will make a second attempt to change the policy. 

“In New Westminster, our taxpayers had a hike of 14% in two years,” Minhas said. “We need to prioritize the allocation of resources towards pressing needs, such as infrastructure, education and healthcare. To me, this is just a golden parachute, as the man knew he was headed to Metro Vancouver for a high-paying job.”

Metro Vancouver’s finances are coming under greater scrutiny after the unelected regional government revealed in March that the North Shore Wastewater Treatment Plant had gone $3 billion over budget and wouldn’t be completed until 2030. The project was supposed to cost around $700 million and be open in 2020. 

Commissioner Jerry Dobrovolny made the bombshell announcement on a Friday afternoon in the middle of March break. 

Ex-New Westminster Mayor Jonathan X. Cote and his successor, Patrick Johnstone. (X/Cote)

No surprise, Dobrovolny is the highest-paid bureaucrat at Metro Vancouver’s Metrotown headquarters. Metro Vancouver reported Dobrovolny’s total $711,668 pay package for 2023, including $451,949 base pay, $222,578 under other and taxable benefits and $37,141 in expenses. 

Dobrovolny and two other bureaucrats accompanied Mayors Mike Hurley (Burnaby), Brad West (Port Coquitlam), Malcolm Brodie (Richmond) and John McEwan (Anmore) to a drainage convention in Holland earlier this month. Metro Vancouver has not released the approved budget for the entourage’s travel and accommodation. 

Eby said June 17 that Metro Vancouver ought to appoint an independent auditor to examine the troubled North Vancouver project. Outgoing chair George Harvie, who is also the Delta mayor, called for a review on June 18, but he offered no details about the reviewer, terms of reference or the deadline. According to Jillian Glover, a spokesperson for Metro Vancouver, “at this time, the scope and details of the review remain to be determined.” 

Seven councillors from five municipalities want B.C. Auditor General Michael Pickup to audit the project, which received almost $200 million from Victoria. Four of those councillors, Surrey’s Linda Annis, New Westminster’s Daniel Fontaine, Richmond’s Kash Heed and Maple Ridge’s Ahmed Yousef, want a governance review and, ultimately, direct elections for Metro Vancouver directors. 

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