November 6, 2013
Too Many Cooks
Greg Moore top dog in earnings
Released by Dermod Travis, Integrity BC
knew? Count 'em all up and B.C. has 1,660 elected officials sitting
on 250 local councils and school boards across the province. That
works out to one for every 2,000 registered voters.
It's also a lot of
paycheques. Some of the lucky ones get to collect two paycheques, if
they happen to be chosen to sit on a regional district. The two
biggies of course being Metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional
According to their websites, “Metro Vancouver delivers regional
services, planning and political leadership on behalf of 24 local
authorities” and “the Capital Regional District is the regional
government for the 13 municipalities and three electoral areas that
are located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.”
That's 40 communities with a combined population of 2.7 million or a
little more than 60 per cent of B.C.'s total population each
elbowing the other for political space within the two districts. The
City of Toronto is home to 2.8 million residents.
Practically speaking though neither Metro Vancouver or the Capital
Regional District have much in the way of real authority despite
their lofty mission statements, because Big Brother is never really
far behind. Think debating clubs with privileges. Should one of the
districts actually choose to bite off something contentious, chances
are it will still need Victoria's stamp of approval.
Metro Vancouver wants to burn a cool half billion dollars on a new
garbage incinerator, but they'll need Victoria's a-ok before
striking the match. In fact, they need it just to put a proposed
solid waste management bylaw into effect.
The folks at the Capital Regional District are being called upon to
make all the politically smelly decisions regarding a new sewage
treatment plant, while the purse strings remain tightly controlled
over at the offices of Partnerships B.C. The federal and provincial
governments called it a condition of funding. Cynics might have
another expression for it.
So if it's all mostly show, imagine how local taxpayers must feel.
Voters don't get to choose their district representatives, local
councils do. The power of the ballot box is far removed from the
daily goings-on at the two regional districts.
That's why it's far easier to vote to try and place a sewage sludge
treatment facility in someone else's backyard as the Capital
Regional District sewage committee wanted to do earlier this year,
if you don't have to face those voters yourself.
But even though the regional districts aren't exactly omnipotent,
sitting on one does make balancing the family budget a little
Last year, councillors and mayors from the Lower Mainland who were
among the lucky few to be chosen as Metro Vancouver directors
collectively took home $870,000 in stipends plus $61,000 in
expenses; and all of it on top of their local council salaries.
Christmas even came early for them. Last month, Metro Vancouver
awarded its directors a 2.3 per cent pay increase retroactive to the
beginning of 2013; despite the fact that there were no reports of
directors panhandling to make ends meet during the year.
For a Metro Vancouver director that means $354 for every regional
district meeting that is wrapped up within four hours or $88.50 per
hour. God forbid the meeting should run over four hours because then
the fee doubles.
For directors with additional responsibilities or titles, it can
bring a whole new meaning to two-income households.
The mayors of Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond and the district of
North Vancouver all took home at least $26,500 from their gigs at
Metro Vancouver last year and that's on top of the average $105,000
that they were each paid by their respective communities.
And for Metro Vancouver's top dog, Greg Moore, it means an extra
$70,865 from Metro Vancouver over and above his $85,418 salary as
mayor of Port Coquitlam.
All nice work if you can get it, but likely not the most ideal model
for regional governance in 2013. Two mega cities isn't the answer,
but maybe 40 communities is no longer appropriate. And it's time for
the provincial government to step up and show some leadership on the
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.
Copyright (c) 2013 The Valley Voice