Metro Vancouver directors may soon be paid less to attend special events like conferences, conventions and seminars.
The mayors and councillors who serve on the regional district board now get at least $346 to compensate them for their time spent at authorized external meetings and for their travel time. The fee doubles to $692 if an event runs longer than four hours.
A Metro staff report recommends chopping the payment to a flat rate of $100 per day for time spent.
But directors at the finance committee were split recently on whether to go ahead with the change and have asked staff for more information.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said it might be a hardship for some directors who have professional jobs where they're paid considerably more than $100 a day.
"Their time is valuable – it's not throwaway time," Jackson said.
Asked why directors should be paid more for such meetings by Metro Vancouver when they're already paid a councillor's or mayor's salary from their own municipality, Jackson said appearing at conferences or seminars on behalf of Metro often requires considerable preparation.
"Do we just ask people to do everything for nothing?" she asked.
"We have to be careful we don't turn so many people away from politics we end up with people who perhaps shouldn't be there."
The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation (CTF) this week called on five politicians to return more than $2,000 in meeting fees they collected for attending Metro's Zero Waste Challenge conference Sept. 14.
Twenty non-elected speakers at the conference volunteered their time and waived fees, but $346 fees were paid to Jackson, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, Surrey Coun. Marvin Hunt and Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer. Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie received $692 for 7.5 hours of time spent.
"While the experts worked for free, our local politicians cashed in at anywhere from $92 to $230 per hour," CTF B.C. Director Jordan Bateman said, adding the event cost Metro a total of nearly $100,000 in various rental, equipment and other costs.
“If only the Zero Waste in the title of this conference referred to our tax dollars. Unfortunately, our trash seems to get more care and attention than our money.”
Jackson accused Bateman of taking potshots at politicians to get publicity for the CTF while refusing to be transparent about his own pay.
"He can't have it both ways," she said. "I'm sure he doesn't do what he does for nothing. I tried to Google it and it's not there."
If Metro's board endorse the changes, staff will draw up a bylaw.
The proposed reduction would not apply to the fees directors get to attend regular Metro board and committee meetings.
Those meeting fees – also $346, doubling after four hours – have steadily risen due to a Metro policy of indexing them to the median of Metro mayors' salaries.
When one or more cities raise their mayors' pay, the regional fees have gone up as a result, and that has sometimes been used to justify more cities raising their mayoral salaries.
The staff report doesn't suggest changing the formula, but notes cities have been reporting mayoral salaries inconsistently, some failing to include car allowances, for example.
All allowances should be included, it said, but the recalculation of Metro fees would only happen once every three years. In intervening years, the fees would be adjusted for inflation.
Metro directors received nearly $714,000 through meeting fees last year, plus $44,000 in travel expenses.