OF ALL THE decisions politicians must make, none is ever tougher or more controversial than deciding how much to pay themselves.
Though it’s always political dynamite, some do it better than others.
The Metro Vancouver board, made up of 40 regional municipal representatives, has given itself what it calls a retirement allowance — another term for severance pay — that will go to board members that retire or are defeated in the next election.
This golden handshake, which will cost an estimated $500,000 in total, has Lower Mainland electors hot under the collar. They see it as self-serving, especially since it was made retroactive to 2007.
The process for this boost was to first discuss it behind closed doors, then make the official decision on the last meeting before a weekend without public notice or even, apparently, advance notice to at least some board members.
Justification provided by those who voted in favour of it was that if people want the best possible candidates to be willing to serve on public bodies, they have to offer attractive compensation.
That argument sounds reasonable but provides no proof that higher pay — especially in the form of severance packages, which are an unusual benefit for those who offer their time to serve the public — equals better representation.
There’s enough objection being raised to have convinced some members of Metro Vancouver to force reconsideration of the move at the next opportunity, which is as it should be.
Given that our politicians are stuck with having to set their own pay levels, the following would make procedural sense whenever it comes up:
- Provide public notice of intention.
- Hold all such discussions in open meeting.
- Record the vote of each member.
That would, at least, provide for a greater measure of accountability than Metro Vancouver seemingly wanted to meet.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger’s Armchair Mayor editorials appear Mondays through Thursdays on CFJC- TV. His Armchair Mayor column is published Saturdays on ArmchairMayor.ca and CFJC Today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.