Opinion

Editorial — Say no to double-dipping

Concerns about double-dipping among politicians are not going  away.

Despite a great deal of publicity surrounding the many municipal elected officials who were elected to the B.C. legislature in the May provincial election, it appears that at least one just can’t help taking two paycheques — even though he is clearly dividing his time up to do two jobs.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy has been getting paid as  MLA for West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, and also billed taxpayers for more than $15,000 in expenses, incurred before Sept. 30. He was also still getting paid $25,000 per year as Pemberton mayor. This is clearly unfair to taxpayers.

A number of municipal officials, including Sturdy, did not resign after they were elected in  May, largely to avoid the costs of holding byelections. These include Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, who went on a leave of absence from his job as mayor of the City, and has not been paid. Sturdy resigned his mayor’s job earlier this month.

Surrey-Panorama MLA Marvin Hunt remained on Surrey council — a move that saved taxpayers of that city close to $600,000 in a byelection cost. In  Coquitlam, two members of council who were elected to the legislature resigned, so there was a necessity for a byelection.

Hunt has not been paid as a member of Surrey council. Doug Bing, who remains on Pitt Meadows council while also sitting as an MLA, also is not being paid.

They chose not to collect salaries while continuing to do their municipal jobs. Their decisions are laudable, but their good intentions obviously did not rub off on their caucus colleague Sturdy.

The provincial government can easily correct this issue. It can require than any person elected as an MLA must forego any civic salary they are entitled to after being sworn in, if they do not resign their municipal seats. That would be the easiest way to deal with the problem.

Some have suggested that provincial and municipal election timelines should be aligned. But implicit in this suggestion is that municipal politicians should be elected to four-year terms.

That would remove accountability for municipal decisions even further from taxpayers. At one time, half the members of a council were elected each year. That kept municipal politicians much more accountable, because if they strayed too far from constituents’ wishes, they could be turfed at a time when taxpayers could still remember the issue.

A simple change to the rules newly-elected MLAs must follow would end the double-dipping.

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