Metro Vancouver directors have quietly torpedoed a staff suggestion that they be paid much less to attend conferences, conventions and other events on behalf of the regional district.
The board voted without debate Friday to make only minor changes to its director remuneration bylaw.
Mayors and councillors who serve on the regional district board will continue to get at least $346 per day for each board or committee meeting they attend as well as authorized external events, such as courses, conventions, seminars, workshops and conferences.
Regional district staff last year recommended chopping the rate for external events to a flat $100 a day but that was rejected in committee and never made it into the final bylaw.
Directors were unapologetic about jettisoning the proposed pay cut.
“It was terribly unfair,” Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said after the meeting, adding critics should compare Metro directors’ pay to that of TransLink or the Vancouver airport authority board.
“It’s always popular to say Metro Vancouver directors or indeed any public servants are overpaid,” he said. “I think we have to be open and accountable and reasonable. But reasonable doesn’t mean we do things basically for nothing.”
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson also opposed the reduction to a flat $100.
She and other directors said it didn’t fairly reflect that some events require a Metro rep to do little more than “sit there” while others consume much time and effort.
“If you’re doing a lot of work and making a huge presentation and you’re really having to work very, very hard for a conference, that’s a little different than just sitting and being an observer,” she said.
“I’m not saying we should be doing it for free. But by the same token we cannot overstep what is reasonable.”
Board chair Greg Moore said staff have been asked to again consider the issue of external event pay to see if a better compensation model can still be devised.
The revised bylaw continues to set the board chair’s salary ($69,128) at 75 per cent of the median of Metro Vancouver mayors’ salaries, and the per meeting fee paid to other directors is 0.5 per cent of the chair’s pay.
The meeting fee, currently $346, will now be recalculated once every three years and will move up with inflation in the intervening years.
The fee doubles to nearly $700 if a meeting, or an event including travel time to get to it, runs longer than four hours.
Metro directors’ travel, expenses and meeting fees will be regularly posted to the metrovancouver.org website starting this year, Moore said.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. Director Jordan Bateman said he’s “appalled” the board missed a chance to do the right thing.
“I think any notion community service plays a part in serving in political office is quickly evaporating among taxpayers,” Bateman said.
“There’s no way someone should be paid $700 for sitting in a conference all day when they’re already being paid by their own municipality and being paid to attend board meetings and committee meetings for Metro Vancouver.”
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he wanted to eliminate the provision for meeting fees to double after four hours.
“You’re always going to have critics say you’re paid too much,” he said. “I’ll never figure out why those critics believe it’s fine for the CEO of a corporation to get $50 million in shares as compensation but actually paying a politician is verboten,” he said.
Typically, directors collect $10,000 to $20,000 a year from their Metro roles, for a total of $714,000 in meeting fees in 2011.