Premier Christy Clark has questioned a decision made in secret by an all-party committee to extend $127,000 in severance pay to MLAs who are recalled by voters.
The decision was made in February 2011, at a time when recall campaigns targeted B.C. Liberal MLAs over the imposition of the harmonized sales tax.
It was belatedly disclosed in minutes from the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, which began public disclosure of its proceedings this fall after a critical report from B.C. Auditor General John Doyle.
The severance amount equals 15 months of an MLA’s base salary, which was frozen at $101,859 a year in 2010, when the B.C. government imposed a two-year freeze on public service salaries.
Clark said the government doesn’t control the committee, which is chaired by legislative speaker Bill Barisoff and has B.C. Liberal and NDP members.
“I think a lot of people in a tough economy would look at that and say they don’t get it, and I am one of those people,” Clark said.
Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong said she is one of those people too.
She was the first B.C. Liberal MLA targeted in the 2010-11 recall campaign and said she had no idea the severance decision had been made.
“That’s exactly when I was going through recall, and I had no indication, not that that would’ve changed anything,” she said on Friday. “That would’ve been an insult to voters. I was certainly not expecting anything of that nature.”
Chong says she “would be fine” with seeing the recall severance decision reversed.
“That was a decision made at LAMC. I’m not at those meetings and none of us see those minutes,” she said.
Barisoff defended the decision Thursday, telling reporters that MLAs who are recalled because of cabinet decisions rather than personal misconduct deserve severance so they can make the transition to another job. It can be difficult for defeated MLAs to find work, he said.
– with files from Kyle Slavin and Tom Fletcher