Pay raise for City Council and Park Board approved, but there are many questions/concerns on process, selection, implications

city-council-2014-largeVancouver City Council members quietly voted to give themselves a pay raise on February 24, 2016. The changes will result in a 12.6% pay hike for Councillors, as well as extended health coverage ($3,048 annually).

It was about three weeks later that this story first received media coverage, by the CBC, the Vancouver Sun, and CKNW. Stephen Quinn has provided a parody in the Globe and Mail, “So we gave ourselves a raise, what’s the big deal?”

Below we point out questions and concerns about

  • creation of the 4-person Elected Officials’ Compensation Committee
  • the selection of its members (and a conspicuous absence of public/taxpayer representation)
  • the selection of comparable cities (possible cherry picking)
  • implications for other municipalities in the Metro Vancouver region.

We also note that though the Council adopted the price increase, as far as we know it has not been passed into legislation yet. So watch out for this topic to come back to Council one day soon, for formal approval. Maybe that is a chance for public to address Council?

Certainly, City Council and Park Board Commissioners should get paid a fair price in today’s world. But everyone needs to remember — there is only one wallet paying them: the taxpayer. (See our February 2015 post on this story – Review of compensation for member$ of Council & Park Board: $ome reference$ for discussions.) We are interested in the integrity of the process used to determine the proposed increase, moreso than the dollar amounts.

Councillors also gave themselves one-time payments of $8,968 (retroactive for 2015). Park Board Commissioners will see their pay rise by $8,326 (from $8,000) and the Park Board Chair will see an increase of $10,407 (over the $10,000 base salary).

In 2015, Vancouver City Councillors received a base compensation of $70,909, and many Councillors also billed a few thousand dollars for “local expenses” and “travel allowance” (full table here). Mayor Robertson received a base compensation of $160,950 in 2015 (with $9,663 in local expenses, $7,451 travel allowance and $22,039 for travel & conferences). On top of this income, seven members of Vancouver City Council are Directors on the Board of Metro Vancouver and receive further compensation (on average $7,000 to $10,000). There are additional supplements of $8,968 for the (now permanent) Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor positions (posts currently held by Councillors Heather Deal and Raymond Louie respectively).

How did the pay raises come about? Is there an inherent conflict of interest to have Councillors vote on a pay increase? Does the public have a say in the process?

One alternate way to gauge public support for a pay hike for Council would be to put it to a vote. This could be administered similarly to the Capital Budget Borrowing questions on the ballot. Simply ask voters: “Do you support a 12.6% wage increase for Council?”

It has also been suggested that Council pay hikes should be deferred until after the next election. In this manner, elected politicians cannot appear to directly benefit themselves by voting for a pay increase without public approval (see petition: Defer City of Vancouver elected politicians’ pay increases until after next civic election).

QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS ABOUT PROCESS TO **CREATE** THE COMPENSATION REVIEW COMMITTEE

The origin of the compensation review came about as a result of a motion on notice approved on February 3, 2015. At that time in 2015, the motion said this:

“Council direct staff to recommend an independent, qualified individual and an appropriate budget, which includes the capacity for related research, to conduct a review of Council compensation and resources, with a goal of reporting back to Council by June 30, 2015″ (full motion reproduced further below)

The staff presentation posted for the February 24, 2016 Council Committee Meeting contained the following slide (highlights added):

compensation review

Upon review of the March 24, 2015 minute meetings, there is no mention of Council approving any independent committee to review compensation. Here is an excerpt of those minutes: THAT Council receive the Administrative Report dated February 20, 2015, entitled “2014 Council Remuneration and Expenses” for information. ADOPTED ON CONSENT

Note that the administrative report was “for information” only. That means that there was NO policy decision made. Not only that, that there is no mention of any independent committee being created in the document referenced, the 2014 Council Remuneration and Expenses (an administrative report that merely listed the salaries and expenses for Council). We cannot find a paper trail showing that Council approved. We also cannot see any paper trail of Council formally approving the change from “and independent, qualified individual” to having a number of individuals.

So, in terms of process, it remains unclear how this “independent committee” was approved or selected.

Fast forward. A 180 page report was reviewed at a Council meeting on December 10, 2015, entitled Elected Officials’ Compensation Review.

CONCERNS ABOUT PRIOR NOTIFICATION TO THE PUBLIC

The media and public had no advance notice about the specifics of the pay raise. The agenda listed a general report to Council as item #1, but at the beginning of the meeting it was moved to be the last item of business (which ended up being late in the evening). The minutes of the meeting abruptly jump to a motion by Councillor Carr, with no preamble.

The media were taken by surprise. In “Vancouver city councillors give themselves 12.6-per-cent wage increase plus benefits supplement,” the Vancouver Sun’s Jeff Lee, writes this:

Vancouver city councillors have quietly given themselves double-digit wage increases as well as a healthy package of perks, including extra research funding, more staff, a supplement for benefits and even “transition” pay if they lose their jobs.

The decision to award themselves a basic 12.6-per-cent increase was made on Feb. 24 at the end of a busy council committee meeting. There was no report issued in the meeting agenda indicating how much the raises would be.

Mr. Lee points out that there was no staff presentation:

The first indication of how much each councillor will be paid came in an all-party motion by Coun. Adriane Carr at the end of an evening session of the Policy and Strategic Priorities committee meeting. A PowerPoint presentation prepared by acting deputy city manager Paul Mochrie was posted on the committee agenda but in the video clip of the meeting the chairwoman, Coun. Andrea Reimer, told councillors he didn’t need to present it publicly.

CONCERNS ABOUT **SELECTION** OF MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE

On top of that, the public has received no information of specifically which City staff person(s) selected the members of the committee. Where the proper paper trail seems end is with Council directing “staff to recommend an independent, qualified individual” in February 2015. It appears unclear exactly when staff made such a recommendation, and when Council approved it.

Eventually, the members of the committee were:

  • Elaine Doyle, Labour Mediator/Arbitrator (Committee Chair)
  • Steve Butz, President and CEO, YMCA of Greater Vancouver
  • Ida Goodreau, Adjunct Faculty, UBC; Corporate Director; and Former CEO, Vancouver Coastal Health
  • Jim Sinclair, Former President, BC Federation of Labour

Has the public received any information justifying this mix and selection? We don’t think so. One might also ask if the public, residents, citizens, and taxpayers are represented on this committee as a stakeholder group. It appears not. Could there have been some “dynamics” in terms of interests? YWCA depends on the City of Vancouver for some of its revenues. Labour depends on the municipal government’s generosity in contract negotiations. In the next contract negotiations negotiations with the City, labour groups can point to City Council’s pay raise, and how can Council deny similar generosity? Who was there on the committee as a voice for taxpayers, to balance things out and challenge fiscal prudence? Could one argue that the answer was “no one.”

CONCERNS ABOUT SELECTION OF COMPARABLE CITIES

In an article by CKNW, “Watchdog worries Vancouver Council salary report “cherry picked” cities,” Shelby Thom writes:

A BC political watchdog organization is questioning why those responsible for a compensation review at Vancouver City Hall appeared to selectively pick the other cities involved for a comparative analysis of wages.

Dermod Travis with Integrity BC says the review panel didn’t include four of the ten largest cities in Canada.

“And by failing to do that they’ve excluded Montreal, Brampton, Hamilton, Quebec City. They’ve also excluded other possibilities to look at such as Regina, Halifax, St. Johns, Newfoundland, and Labrador.”

He quotes Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC:

… “It causes the automatic fear that they’ve cherry picked the data in order to justify their salary increase.”

OTHER IMPLICATIONS

The same CKNW article also points out these implications.

Travis adds that by salting the list of selected cities with other local municipalities, the Vancouver move could push salaries up across the region.

“Also by picking three cities in British Columbia outside of Vancouver being Surrey, Burnaby and Richmond, what you end up doing, and this has happened at the Chief Administrative Officer level as well in local government, is that you create a marketplace in British Columbia where other councils will now look at the salary given to Vancouver city Councillors and say well if they’re getting that, we should get that.”

The text of the motion approved on February 24, 2016 is reproduced below:

1. Elected Officials – Remuneration and Council Support

Paul Mochrie, Acting Deputy City Manager, responded to questions.
The Committee requested the components of the following motion be separated for the vote.

MOVED by Councillor Carr
THAT the Committee recommend to Council

A. THAT Council approve the following changes to the current remuneration for Mayor and Council:

  1. Commencing May 1, 2016, the Acting Mayor will receive a monthly supplement equivalent to 8.0% of the Mayor’s monthly salary.
  2. The Acting Mayor will receive a one-time payment equivalent to 8.0% of the Mayor’s salary payable between January 1, 2015 and April 30, 2016.
  3. Commencing May 1, 2016,the Councillor assigned to serve in the Duty Councillor role will receive a monthly supplement, in recognition of the additional duties required of Councillors in the Duty Councillor role and, further, Council will establish a monthly Duty Councillor roster that provides for equitable assignments for all Councillors, other that the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor. The monthly supplement will be equivalent to the monthly value of the Deputy Mayor supplement.
  4. Each Councillor who served as Duty Councillor for one or more months during the period from January 1, 2015 to April 30, 2016 will receive a one-time payment equivalent to the monthly value of the Deputy Mayor supplement payable for the same months that Councillor served as Duty Councillor.
  5. The Mayor and each Councillor, including the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor, will receive an annual supplement of $3,048, commencing in 2016.
  6. The Mayor and each Councillor, including the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor, will receive a one-time payment of $3,048.
  7. The Mayor and Councillors who serve their full term and who do not run for re-election or are not elected to a subsequent term of office will be entitled to a transition allowance. The transition allowance will be paid to the member of Council as part of her/his last bi-weekly payment and will be equivalent to one week’s salary for every year of service on Council, including years of service that were non-contiguous. Where a Councillor receives a transition allowance on leaving office and is subsequently re-elected in a future election, any service considered for purposes of payment of the initial transition allowance will not be included in calculation of a subsequent transition allowance.
  8. The base remuneration for Councillors, including the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor, for 2016 will be increased by $8,968, in order that the combined annual amount of the base remuneration and the average Duty Councillor supplement aligns with the median base remuneration paid to Councillors in Canadian cities of relatively equivalent population size and complexity, as represented in the staff presentation received by Council on February 24, 2016.
  1. Each Councillor, including the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor, will receive a one-time payment equivalent to $8,968.
  2. The formula used to determine the base remuneration for the Mayor will be adjusted to 2.02 times the base remuneration for Councillors in order that the Mayor’s base remuneration for 2016 will remain consistent, notwithstanding the increase to the base remuneration for Councillors.
  3. On an annual basis commencing January 1, 2017, the base remuneration for Councillors will be adjusted by a percentage consistent with the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for Vancouver over the twelve months ending October 31 of the prior year.
  1. THAT Council approve the following changes to the current remuneration for the Park Board Chair and Park Board Commissioners:
    1. The base remuneration of each Park Board Commissioner for 2016 will be increased by $8,326 in order to re-establish the percentage relationship of 20.4% relative to the base remuneration for Councillors, such as existed in 1995.
    2. Each Park Board Commissioner, excluding the Commissioner who served as Chair in 2015, will receive a one-time payment of $8,326.
    3. The base remuneration of the Park Board Chair for 2016 will be increased by $10,407 in order to re-establish the percentage relationship of 125% relative to the base remuneration of a Park Board Commissioner.
    4. The Park Board Commissioner who served as Park Board Chair in 2015 will receive a one-time payment of $10,407.
    5. The remuneration of the Park Board Chair and Park Board Commissioners be adjusted annually using the same methodology used to adjust Councillor’s remuneration.
  2. THAT the remuneration paid to the Mayor and Councillors be reviewed every four years with the next review occurring in 2019.
  3. THAT the remuneration paid to the Park Board Chair and Park Board Commissioners be reviewed every four years with the next review occurring in 2019.
  4. THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to bring forward the necessary by-laws amendments to support the above-noted changes to remuneration of Council and the Park Board generally in accordance with the direction provided by Council.
  1. THAT Council instruct the Director of Legal Services to pursue the necessary legislative changes to the Vancouver Charter that would authorize Council to enact by-laws in relation to:
    1. Extended health, dental and group life insurance benefits consistent with the coverage provided to exempt staff.
    2. Income continuity of up to one year should the Mayor or a Councillor become disabled during their term of office.
  2. THAT Council approve funding for an additional full-time position to supplement the existing complement of assistants assigned to provide administrative support for Councillors in the execution of their duties.
  3. THAT Council approve funding for a full-time position within the City Clerk’s Office to support improved management of correspondence addressed to Mayor and Council, including tracking of incoming contacts and responses, assignments to departments for background information or response as appropriate and communication of staff responses to Mayor and Council.
  4. THAT Council approve the creation of a discretionary fund in the amount of $6000 per Councillor per year for Councillors to utilize for purposes of obtaining research support and constituency management functions that are outside the scope of the duties performed by administrative assistants and, further, that staff be directed to report back to Council with a recommended framework of terms and conditions for use and reporting of discretionary funds.

CARRIED
(Councillors Affleck and De Genova opposed to A1, A2, and H)
(Councillor Affleck opposed to A5 and A6)

(Councillors Affleck, De Genova, and Reimer opposed to A8 and A9)

 

The original motion that was responsible for the compensation review was passed on February 3, 2015:

3. Review of Compensation for Members of Council and Park Board

The following motion contains an addition to the original Motion on Notice, which was accepted by the Council.

MOVED by Councillor Meggs
SECONDED by Councillor Stevenson

WHEREAS

  1. Council decided on December 8, 2014, to change the allocation of Council duties in response to the evolving and increasing responsibilities expected of Council members;
  2. The new structure approved by Council includes, for the first time, the full- time appointment of a Deputy Mayor and an Acting Mayor, as well as a roster of Councillors to represent Council in a protocol role;
  3. The Vancouver Charter mandates Council to establish compensation for Park Board Commissioners;
  4. Questions of compensation for Councillors and Park Board Commissioners, as well as the resources necessary for them to perform their duties, have historically been based on the recommendations of an independent review;
  5. The workload for Councillors and Park Board Commissioners has been significantly increased by the rising volume of citizen e-mails and phone calls, each meriting prompt and full reply;
  6. The methodology used in the By-law for calculating Councillor salaries is no longer valid as a result of changes to the Long Form Census;
  7. There has been no review of these matters since 1995 for Councillors and 1993 for Park Board Commissioners.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council direct staff to recommend an independent, qualified individual and an appropriate budget, which includes the capacity for related research, to conduct a review of Council compensation and resources, with a goal of reporting back to Council by June 30, 2015, including recommendations for:

  1. Changes to the current formula for calculating wages and benefits for Councillors and Park Board Commissioners, if appropriate, taking into account best practices in other jurisdictions of similar size as well as relevant benchmarks for comparison;
  2. Clarifying the duties and appropriate additional compensation for the Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor in view of the change in duties contemplated by Council, as well as for the duty Councillor on call; and
  3. Changes, if required, to the resources available to Councillors, including staff, to ensure Councillors are able to respond to citizens’ needs in an appropriate and timely way.

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

On December 10, 2015, the staff report on compensation was received for information by Council:

3. Elected Officials’ Compensation Review November 26, 2015

MOVED by Mayor Robertson
THAT the Committee recommend to Council

A. THAT Council receive the Administrative Report dated November 26, 2015, entitled “Elected Officials’ Compensation Review”, for information and thank members of the Compensation Review Committee for their service.

B. THAT Council, as per Recommendation 10 from the Compensation Review Committee Report, direct staff to undertake a review of the resources and personnel available to support Councillors in the fulfillment of their duties and report back to Council within three months, taking into account pending new Council duties such as Neighbourhood Liaison which have been approved in principle, at which time Council will make a final decision on the Compensation Review Committee’s report.

amended
AMENDMENT MOVED by Councillor Ball

THAT the motion be amended to add the following to B:

FURTHER THAT, as part of this review, staff include a comparison of how other cities of comparable size referred to in the Compensation Review Committee Report calculate their base compensation.

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY
The amendment having carried, the motion as amended was put and carried unanimously.

References

CBC: Vancouver city councillors vote themselves a 12.6% pay raise (March 16, 2016)

CKNW: Watchdog worries Vancouver Council salary report “cherry picked” cities (Shelby Thom, March 16, 2016)

Vancouver Sun: Vancouver city councillors give themselves 12.6-per-cent wage increase plus benefits supplement (Jeff Lee, March 17, 2016)

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