Strathcona Regional District directors have voted to increase their medical benefits coverage.
The board, at its July 12 meeting, chose to up the regional district’s share of premium costs for the director benefits plan from 50 per cent to 100 per cent.
That means directors will have all of their benefits, including Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage and extended health – which includes paramedical, dental, vision care, prescription drugs, ambulance, and travel insurance – covered entirely by the regional district.
Tom Yates, the regional district’s corporate services manager, said the change applies to all elected directors only.
“It affects directors only, not alternate directors who would still be at the 50 per cent level primarily,” Yates said.
That didn’t sit right with Area D Director Brenda Leigh.
“Why would the alternate directors only be covered 50 per cent, especially long serving ones. Why wouldn’t they be fully covered?” Leigh questioned.
Yates said the board could certainly make a change so that the increased coverage would also apply to alternate directors.
Victoria Smith, acting chief administrative officer, said it would be “advisable” to wait until Dave Leitch, the regional district’s CEO, returns to the office in order to assess any potential implications.
Yates, however, noted that the board’s resolution to increase the coverage states that the change should be effective Aug. 1, which wouldn’t give staff enough time. He noted, though, that the bylaw could be amended at any time to increase coverage for alternate directors as well.
Leigh in the end chose to hold off but said she still believes alternate directors should all be treated the same, particularly those who are filling in for an extended period of time such as Alternate Director Mary Lavelle who is currently representing Area B at the board table while Cortes Director Noba Anderson is on maternity leave.
“I still think an alternate director who is long-term should still get the same benefits that directors get,” Leigh said. “I’d like the staff to flag that we want to look at this again when the CEO returns.”
Strathcona Regional District directors have been receiving MSP coverage since 2013 after Tahsis Director Jude Schooner questioned why it was not offered as part of a group benefits package. Regional district staff were already receiving 100 per cent coverage and at the time it was implemented for directors, they went ahead with a 50 per cent coverage rate.
In British Columbia, MSP premiums must legally be paid by, or on behalf of, every B.C. resident.
As of Jan. 1, 2017, those who earn $24,000 or less annually are exempt from paying MSP premiums while a single adult making between $24,000-$26,000 pays $132 annually and a couple earning the same amount pays $264 a year. Rates increase from there, up to a maximum of $900 for a single adult and $1,800 annually for a couple earning more than $42,000 a year.