Jaws dropped around Toronto when the public learned that thirteen departing city councillors will receive 1.2 million dollars in severance packages.
Following Rob Ford’s recent victory, six city councillors voluntarily resigned their seats, and five were given no choice. An article in the Toronto Star explains that the bylaw concerning severance entitles politicians to a months pay for every year of service, up to a maximum of 12 months pay. It makes no distinction between councillors that voluntarily leave, and ones that are defeated.
Roughly $820,000 of the 1.2 million is going towards politicians leaving voluntarily. Given how closely public officials are scrutinized for the manner in which taxpayer money is spent, two questions come to mind:
- Should politicians be compensated if they are defeated in an election?
- Should politicians be compensated for leaving voluntarily?
It is important to put this issue in context. CEO’s can potentially receive millions in severance for considerably less time than the maximum payout of $99,619 councillors receive for 12 years. Councillors may not leave by choice, but it would be difficult to argue that a change in public opinion is the same as just cause for dismissal.
Typically, when an employee quits his job, he is happy to receive a firm handshake or a pat on the back. Overwhelming public opinion on this issue has been that politicians should receive the same; whether or not the outcry has been enough to make a difference in future severance cheques awaits to be seen.