Delta’s next council will get the chance to review and possibly change its “golden handshake,” after the current council voted to send the benefit back to the drawing board Monday night.
“My mum would say to me, better late than never,” Counc. Jeannie Kanakos said during the meeting on Oct. 15. “I think it’s actually rather poignant that this is our last decision-making council meeting and we are discussing this motion.”
Kanakos brought the issue back to council on Sept. 24, with her notice of motion to eliminate the retroactive portion of the service benefit, create a cap on remuneration and hold a public information meeting on the subject.
In January 2017, council voted on their 2018 remuneration, which included an end-of-service benefit. This meant that when the councillors and mayor ended their term on council and were not re-elected, they would receive a pension-like payment.
This means, if they aren’t re-elected, Robert Campbell will receive $54,991, Sylvia Bishop will receive $33,958, Bruce McDonald will receive $48,978, Kanakos will receive $34,199 and Mayor Lois Jackson will receive $124,153. Heather King, as she is not running again, is guaranteed to receive $19,820. Former councillor and current Delta South MLA Ian Paton received $37,235 when he ended his term on council in July.
Although Kanakos’ motion recommended changes to the benefit, it does not actually change the bylaw which includes the benefit. This means that all non-returning council members will receive the benefit this October. In order for the benefit to actually change, a new bylaw would have to be put forward and adopted.
The benefit had been discussed at length during in-camera meetings, the councillors said. However, there was no discussion during the January public council meeting.
When the benefit was brought forward in the media in June 2018, residents spoke out against it. Common concerns were the lack of transparency, the retroactive nature of the pension and the amount of money the elected officials would receive.
To counter this, Kanakos suggested the benefit be brought forward in public meetings, so residents could share their thoughts on the benefit.
“If the public decided or came forward with the idea that this whole thing should be scrapped, I think that’s one option that could be included,” Kanakos said during the meeting.
All council members agreed on the importance of having it go to a public meeting. Counc. Robert Campbell also suggested that an independent third party review the benefits.
Although the election was hardly referenced during the Oct. 15 council meeting, the golden handshake has been a hot topic for many candidates.
On Oct. 9, the five current councillors, including the four who are running for re-election, denounced what they called untrue statements about the benefit by former city manager George Harvie, who is currently running for mayor. Harvie retaliated, saying the councillors were not being accountable for their own decisions.
During an all-candidates meeting on Sept. 29, mayoral candidates were asked, in a yes-or-no format, whether they supported the retroactive nature of the benefit. All mayoral candidates who were present indicated they did not.
Other council candidates have also brought up their concerns with the benefit throughout the campaign, including North Delta resident Mike Smith.
Some candidates pointed out the timing of Kanakos’ notice of motion about the benefit, insinuating that is was merely an election ploy. Kanakos disagreed, and said so during Monday night’s council meeting.
The timing with the election was not planned, she said, and the idea for her motion came from “listening and learning, and reconsidering a point of view.”
She said she had heard from many residents since the benefit started being discussed publicly, and some of their points made her rethink the benefit the way it had been approved.
“I did re-think my position and my approach, and thought this needs to go back,” she said.
During the meeting, Jackson noted that council remuneration is not a new issue.
“This is not a new problem,” Jackson said during council. “It has been difficult for councils … to set their own stipend.”
“You almost hold your nose and do it,” she added. “It’s a very distasteful thing to do.”