27 Feb 2007

Double-dipping sullies councillors

Note that in Clarington, Councillors Foster and Novak, both from Ward 1, will be splitting the appointment to the Veridian Board with Councillor Foster taking the first two years (until the end of 2008) and Councillor Novak taking the next two years (until end of 2010). Share the wealth.

February 27, 2007 - Toronto Star Editorial

Municipal politicians across the 905 region surrounding the City of Toronto are engaged in a form of double-dipping that has been allowed to go on for far too long. In addition to their regular pay for serving on council, some 905 politicians pocket thousands of extra dollars for being on the board of electrical utilities owned or controlled by their municipality.

Mayors and councillors are cashing in, from Mississauga to Vaughan to Clarington and other communities in between. In fairness to ratepayers, these politicians should instead follow the standard set by Toronto and end this money-grab. In Canada's largest city, the three councillors who sit on Toronto Hydro's board are paid nothing for this position.

By contrast, in neighbouring Mississauga, such service is lavishly rewarded. Under existing rules, local politicians fortunate enough to be at Enersource, a company created in 2000 after Hydro Mississauga was incorporated, can expect an extra $33,000 to $44,000 on top of their city hall paycheque. Mississauga councillors get a base salary of $71,800 a year. The mayor automatically has a place on this board. And joining Hazel McCallion on the panel is Councillor Nando Iannicca.

Two more of their colleagues are set to sign on after council recently voted to double the number of politicians on the 10-member panel. But Enersource is not some outside firm that should have to pay for a local politician's expertise. It is 90 per cent owned by the City of Mississauga.

Newly elected Mississauga Councillor Carolyn Parrish has questioned the utility board payments, describing them as "a little bit out of whack." With McCallion's support, city council has agreed to review the practice.

It would be disappointing if that review were to confirm the status quo. Simply put, elected politicians, already well paid to serve in office, do not deserve a bonus for doing the city's business on a municipal utility board. Yet the practice is widespread, as revealed by the Star last weekend.

Councillors sitting on utility boards in Vaughan, Markham, Ajax, Pickering and Clarington get varying levels of remuneration even though the municipalities either own, or are the controlling shareholders, of these electrical corporations. Because of that ownership, councillors are in the questionable position of deciding how much they should be paying themselves to be on the board. And some are not shy about cashing in.

Politicians comprise eight out of 10 board members heading Powerstream, a joint utility serving Vaughan and Markham. Each receives $14,000 a year, plus $650 for every board meeting they attend. Six of Vaughan's nine councillors are fortunate enough to sit on that panel.

Veridian Corp., providing electricity to Ajax, Pickering, Clarington and Belleville, has 10 politicians on its 14-member board and pays each $9,800. Ajax Mayor Steve Parish sits on that board and has urged that fewer politicians be appointed, making more space available for people from the community. But some politicians on the board object to that.

If anything, Parish doesn't go far enough. This double-dipping must end.

Municipalities should either adopt the sensible approach used in Oshawa, where no politicians at all serve on the local electrical board. Or they should use Toronto as a model, where politicians do sit on the utility's governing panel, but are not paid to do so.


  1. Sitting on these board should be considered part of your responsibility of sitting on council. Apart from a small honourarium, there should be no further compensation. They already get fairly large salaries, a generous travel allowance and a severance package when they step down or are voted off.

    If they want to play at being corporate directors, they should try doing it in the real world. The only problem is most politicians would not be experienced enough to be appointed to a corporate board on their own merits if it did not come as part of the election process.

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