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Carson Binda: Fix severance rules when public servants job-hop

The B.C. government needs to fix a loophole that permitted a public servant to receive severance pay, then join a government board.
Columnist Carson Binda of the Canadian Taxpayers Association says the B.C. government needs to address a loophole that grants public servants severance, only to see them move to another government role.

Bureaucrats shouldn’t be getting $600,000 severances.

But that’s exactly what Premier David Eby handed to Lori Wanamaker when she was shuffled from the premier’s office to chair the board of B.C. Hydro. The last person to chair B.C. Hydro’s board took home almost $100,000 last year.

In total, Eby handed out $1.3 million in severance payouts to senior staffers from the Horgan government. All that money went from taxpayer pocketbooks into bureaucrat's bank accounts.

Under normal circumstances, bureaucrats have to pay some of their severance back if they are hired back by the provincial government. So how was Wanamaker allowed to keep her golden parachute?

Eby claims she isn’t actually working for B.C. Hydro.

Yes, you read that right.

Despite being eligible for an almost $100,000 paycheque from taxpayers, Eby’s government says Wanamaker isn’t working for the provincial Crown corporation.

“For the purposes of severance in this case, membership on a board would not be considered employment and not subject to the re-employment and repayment provisions.”

That loophole means Wanamaker gets to double-dip from taxpayers. She gets to keep every dime of her $600,000 severance, while also raking in nearly an additional $100,000 per year for showing up to B.C. Hydro board meetings.

Wanamaker wasn’t the only staffer to receive a big payout when Eby moved into the premier’s office. Don Zadravec, another senior Horgan staffer, took home a severance payment of $432,381. Geoff Meggs worked in Horgan’s office for five years, after serving as a Vancouver City Councillor. Eby’s government cut Meggs a cheque for $339,784 when he was shuffled out of the NDP inner circle. Before leaving the premier’s office, Meggs took home an annual salary of $208,274.

Let’s take a look at how those numbers stack up. According to Statistics Canada, the median income of British Columbians in 2021 was $40,800. Lori Wanamaker’s severance payment alone was more than 14 times higher than the median income in B.C.

Wanamaker hasn’t technically done anything against the rules in accepting her severance. Because the government says she isn’t an employee of B.C. Hydro, the repayment rules don’t apply to her. That shows that the government needs to close the loophole which allowed her to collect a severance 14 times higher than normal British Columbians make in a year, while being appointed to another position in the provincial government the very same day.

While food banks are seeing record-breaking demand, Eby’s inner circle are laughing their way to the bank.

Eby’s government needs to close the loophole that allows bureaucrats to keep their severance payouts when they go onto lucrative board appointments.

Carson Binda is the British Columbia Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.