The expanse between tax maker and tax payer seems nowhere greater than when politicians start to question their own pay.
This became evident last week when residents discovered that Metro Vancouver board members – civic politicians all – had created a new ‘retirement allowance’ package for themselves, backdated to 2007, which provided each with more than $1,000 for every year of service. This, of course, is on top of other money received while attending board meetings ($387 for up to four hours, $775 for over), not to mention their generous wages from most of their respective cities’ council remuneration.
The vote wasn’t a sweep – though with just four of 40 members asking for their opposition to be recorded it can be considered a landslide – but the majority ensured they will receive what they consider their due when they ultimately step down or are rejected at the polls.
It doesn’t help that the allowance was packaged with a raise to mitigate the impact of new federal rules that make some of board members’ pay be taxed as income. The justification didn’t seem to appease some of their voters whose hard-earned paycheques have long been entirely subject to income tax.
While locally Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin received criticism for their support, it should be noted they aren’t the only locals to benefit. In fact, six of Surrey’s nine Surrey First council members are board members, with the remaining three as alternates; and all four White Rock Coalition councillors were named as alternates, one for each year of the current term.
Asked by Peace Arch News to justify their support, Hepner was unreachable, while Baldwin seemed a bit on the defensive. In fact, Baldwin took issue with dissenters labelling it a “pension,” noting White Rock elected officials “receive NO benefits, get NO pension, and get NO ‘retiring allowance'” from their city.
Baldwin’s not wrong, of course, in that elected officials do not qualify for such things – but whether they should is another matter. His further comment that “my compensation is less than what my secretary receives” certainly does not show understanding of the difference between small-town politician and a career bureaucrat – odd given Baldwin’s long run as White Rock’s city manager prior to retirement.
Note that when politicians campaign for a term of office, it’s said to be for the good of the community. That’s hardly the major incentive when employees answer job postings. Elected officials aren’t a company’s employees, or even a city’s – they work for the people.