Vancouver taxpayers are on the hook for almost $103,000 in retirement payments to five lame duck city councillors and Mayor Gregor Robertson this fall, theBreaker has learned.
Robertson is expected to receive $28,843.37 in what is officially called “deferred remuneration,” according to data requested by theBreaker from Vancouver city hall. The Vision Vancouver leader was paid $168,065 last year, lives in a $3.125 million English Bay penthouse and announced in January that he would not run for a fourth term in the Oct. 20 civic election.
The majority Vision Vancouver city council approved a new Mayor and Councillor Remuneration bylaw in 2016 that calls for departing members of city council to be paid one week’s salary for each year in office, based on the salary received during that year of office,
In April, public outrage forced municipal politicians on the Metro Vancouver board to rescind a similar pension scheme that would have paid them 10.2% of their annual meeting fees, retroactive to 2007. Chair Greg Moore, the Mayor of Port Coquitlam, was poised to reap $64,500 from Metro Vancouver before the about-face.
Vision Vancouver Councillors Tim Stevenson and Raymond Louie, both first elected in 2002, will not seek re-election but will get $19,114.47 each when the city council term ends this fall. Andrea Reimer and Kerry Jang, Vision councillors since 2008, are in line for $13,202.51 each.
The only non-Vision Vancouver member expected to receive payment so far is the NPA’s George Affleck, for $9,670.64.
The cost to taxpayers could be as high as $146,277.64, if the other three NPA members and the only Vision incumbent, Heather Deal, do not run again or lose on Oct. 20.
The first to receive a so-called “length of service payment” was Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs, when he quit last July to become Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff. Meggs’ last paycheque included the $7,335.73 bonus.
When theBreaker originally asked for the data from Vancouver city hall’s 43-person communications department on May 30, spokesman Jag Sandhu refused to provide the information and sent theBreaker’s request to the freedom of information office. FOI manager Barbara van Fraassen responded June 26 with a letter that said city hall could not provide the requested data until the council term is up.
The communications office finally relented on the same day and provided theBreaker the estimated payment amounts.
A December 2015 report to council recommended a transition allowance of one week for each year on council, up to maximum eight weeks salary, for departing council members.
“The committee has recognized that the role of a council member is equivalent to full-time employment,” the report said. “The role is highly public in nature and at times requires council members to make difficult decisions; decisions which may be unpopular.”
CityHallWatch’s Stephen Bohus noticed Meggs’s bonus in the statement of financial information for 2017. He said city council should take a second look at this before the end of the term.
“That’s astonishing, they voted these for themselves,” Bohus said. “There are many people in Vancouver struggling to make ends meet in a city that is so unaffordable. The crisis has happened under their watch, now they’re getting bonuses as they leave city hall. It’s not right.”
Coquitlam city councillor Teri Towner’s motion on remuneration reform will go to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention this September. She wants an independent process to consider pay raises for municipal politicians, because politicians who set their own pay have helped reduce public trust in government.
There are no post-employment restrictions or cooling-off periods for Vancouver city council members.
That means Robertson or any departing councillor is free to be hired to lobby city hall or become an executive with a city hall supplier or development applicant almost immediately after leaving office.
Support theBreaker.news for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here.