Province pushed for higher TransLink paycheques

Top transportation ministry officials lobbied behind the scenes last fall for sharply higher pay rates for TransLink’s incoming board of directors.

Records obtained by Black Press through Freedom of Information legislation show the screening panel that vetted candidates and set the pay scale was “encouraged to establish remuneration for the TransLink board that is consistent with market to attract the best individuals to the board.”

That encouragement came from deputy minister John Dyble and assistant deputy minister Frank Blasetti at a Sept. 5 meeting.

The higher pay levels – $100,000 for TransLink’s chair and a base $25,000 each for directors plus $1,200 per meeting – made the new board the highest-paid B.C. public agency.

When the new pay levels were revealed in February, transportation minister Kevin Falcon said he supported the higher rates but did not influence the decision of the independent panel, which he said had to defend its choice.

Records show TransLink staff warned it would be controversial to approve “a significant departure” from the historic pay levels, which provided directors $200 to $400 for meetings and the chair with a flat $40,000.

“The public may be surprised at the quantum of the increase,” corporate secretary Carol Lee noted Sept. 11.

There’s no evidence the plan to boost pay levels got explicit provincial approval, but meeting notes show the panel later interpreted the Sept. 5 meeting with ministry officials as a “clear signal” to proceed.

Black Press has also obtained the report the panel relied on to guide the decision on board pay.

It recommended higher pay levels equivalent to what the panel ultimately adopted, except for the TransLink chair.

The governance consultants recommended the chair get between $100,000 and $140,000, however the panel opted for the bottom end of the range.

“There is currently a high demand for skilled board members and a competitive marketplace,” the report said, arguing the old pay rates were “inadequate.”

Director pay on private companies’ boards has climbed 50 per cent since 2001, it said.

It also argued the pay is too low at provincial Crown corporations – a provincial order limits those boards to pay at levels well below TransLink’s.

The consultants surveyed board pay practices at 19 transportation or Vancouver-based corporations, including firms like WestJet and Canfor.

On average, chairs were paid $123,625, directors got base pay of $44,700 and per meeting fees averaged $1,375.

Many of those boards also receive shares in addition to cash compensation.

Public agency boards generally get less than private for-profit companies, the report found.

But it notes directors’ reputations are equally at risk and corporate governance demands are on the rise in both spheres.

The report also suggests professional advisors who might serve on the board charge $200 to $400 per hour ($1,600 to $3,200 per day) and directors deserve compensation for their time and lost earning opportunity.

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