EDITORIAL: Fat pay package

A new TransLink board’s decision to accept a gold-plated pay package that exceeds even what’s allowed for major Crown corporations does not respect Metro Vancouver residents and their hard-earned dollars. In fact, the optics are terrible.

The new directors make $1,200 for every meeting they attend – even if they only phone in by teleconference. There is no cap on how many meetings they can hold – except they won’t be paid for more than one a day.

Even if the pace of meetings is as modest as expected, directors will earn in the range of $46,000 per year. The chair gets $100,000.

That’s far more than B.C. Hydro or Fraser Health Authority directors get, and they manage bigger budgets.

Why isn’t the pay provided for the health authority board – which no one accuses of being unprofessional – sufficient for the new TransLink board? Why wasn’t a cap imposed? Why wasn’t the provincial government’s cabinet order limiting agency compensation followed – even if only voluntarily?

All of those questions were put to Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon and ex-NDP Premier Mike Harcourt, whose panel crafted the package. Their answers are disappointing.

In each case, they offer flaccid reasons why a more modest pay model was discounted in favour of the much richer ones used at the airport and port authorities.

No one disputes that those who make important decisions on behalf of the public should get appropriate – even attractive – pay.

However, this goes far beyond what is fair or even generous.

Worse, it goes to a board that was appointed, not elected, and will make its decisions in secret. At least the old TransLink board – which cost taxpayers just a quarter of the new one – held its meetings in public and directors were accountable to voters in their home city.

Transit users are paying higher fares. Homeowners will pay more property tax to fund TransLink. Fuel taxes will also rise three cents a litre to fund transportation.

Placed in that context, and set against the structure for other similar provincial governing agencies, the new TransLink board pay package is an insult and an affront to taxpayers and transit users.

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