Members of the unelected commission of experts overseeing Victoria’s sewage treatment program will collect an estimated $282,000 a year in salaries and benefits until the project is completed in 2018.
Under a formula approved by the Capital Regional District board on Wednesday, the chairperson of the Core Area Wastewater Treatment Commission will be paid a $30,000- a-year retainer, while commission members will get $12,000. Members who chair committees will receive an additional $4,000 a year. All of the commission members will get a per diem of $750.
Victoria director Coun. Ben Isitt suggested the compensation be tied to the salary paid to CRD directors and the board chairperson. (The board chairperson receives remuneration and an expense allowance totalling $20,424; most directors receive $8,169.)
“My view is that this is overheated and unnecessary,” said Isitt, adding there is a huge amount of untapped expertise in the community in the form or retirees or semi-retirees who would be happy to undertake the work.
“My personal view is serving on the commission will be a less onerous task than [the work] a number of us do. We see there’s considerable interest in the number of people who want to serve as elected officials in the region. There’s no shortage of applicants at election time,” Isitt said.
But Isitt failed to get any support from fellow members of the sewage committee.
Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said there is a difference between a community-based board and an expert panel.
“This is a skills-based board that we [have expectations for and will] hold accountable for bringing those skills to the table,” Fortin said, noting the group must have expertise on building large, complex infrastructure, resource recovery and contract law.
Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff agreed. “This isn’t a community-based committee. I want people with professional skills to lead this committee. There’s nothing wrong with retired people but, for me, I want to see expertise that will add to what the committee has been asking for.”
Creating the commission of experts is a condition of the B.C. government's agreement to pay one-third of the $783-million budget for sewage treatment.
The commission will be responsible for making decisions about the project, though the CRD sewage committee will retain oversight of the project’s budget and scope.
The compensation schedule was recommended by the search firm Caldwell Partners, which said in a report that commission members’ compensation should reflect “a balance of a reasonable and accountable use of public dollars,” while at the same time providing “incentive to well-qualified individuals.”
The consultants looked at a number of boards in determining the appropriate level of compensation, says a report to the board, including the Greater Victoria Airport Authority, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, the Edmonton light rail project and the Translink board as well as the B.C. Treasury Board directive regarding remuneration guidelines for board members of Crown corporations.
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