I was surprised to read in Saturday’s Toronto Star (11 April) that Newmarket’s Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, appears 4th in a list of “what Mayors in some Canadian cities earned in 2014”.
It gives the impression that our Mayor is among the top paid in Canada in 2014. He says the figures are all wrong.
Responding to a tweet from journalist Deborah Kelly, the Mayor wrote:
@deborahkelly Debra, FYI Star article is incorrect. It should read $151K not $182K. Will ask Star to Correct. Includes both Town and Region.
8:43 AM – 11 April 2015
And earlier this afternoon, the man who challenged Van Bynen last year for the Mayoralty, Chris Campbell, tweeted:
@TonyVanBynen easily highest paid based on population/job creation. Not better on most issues. 26% wage increase? Twitter.com/deborahkelly/s…
2015-04-14, 2.25 PM from Newmarket, Ontario
Two questions arise from all this. Are the figures correct? And, put crudely, is Van Bynen worth it?
But first let's be clear, there is a confusing mass of figures out there. And if expenses/benefits are factored in, this inflates the numbers further. The malicious will lump everything in together, taxable and non taxable. We should be talking solely about taxable income.
With these caveats the Mayor’s salary is either
(a) $113,921 plus taxable benefits of $6,762. (from the Sunshine list)
I exclude the auto allowance ($6,463) and other expenses ($5,381) that are necessary for the Mayor to do the job.
The Mayor also serves on York Region. For this, he gets $52,987. This should be added to the sums in either (a) or (b) above. Benefits paid by the Region totalling $8,794 are reimbursed to the Town. The benefits include the Region’s share of contributions to OMERS, Canada Pension Plan and premium costs for life insurance.
I get to the Mayor’s figure of $151,000 by adding together $91,313 plus the taxable benefits of $6,762 plus York salary of $52,978. But this is me making assumptions and jotting stuff down on the back of an envelope.
Comparing apples with apples
Some Mayors serving on York Region are on the Sunshine List, others are not. Their municipalities are obliged by s284(1) of the Municipal Act to publish annually, on or before 31 March, Statements of Remuneration and Expenses. There are variations in the way these are reported and it is not a simple task comparing apples with apples and sifting out taxable from non-taxable income.
Mayor Frank Scarpitti of Markham has, of course, made the headlines and so too has Mayor Steve Pellegrini of King but for different reasons. East Gwillimbury’s Mayor, Virginia Hackson, is on the Sunshine List ($119,772 plus taxable benefits of $9,209) but Aurora’s Geoffrey Dawe is not there. His remuneration is $89,663 according to his municipality’s reporting. But if his York "supplement" of $55,162 were added he would qualify for the Sunshine List.
Matching figures on the Sunshine List with the same individuals who feature in the remuneration and expenses reports of municipalities is not a straightforward exercise. The sums can vary, no doubt for very good reasons. The Sunshine List has the Mayor of Vaughan, Maurizio Bevilacqua, on $173,459 plus taxable benefits of $7,883 and the Mayor of Richmond Hill, David Barrow, on $173,379 plus taxable benefits of $3,598.
Is he worth it?
So, whatever he gets, is Tony Van Bynen worth it?
Those who are hugely antagonistic towards him wouldn’t pay him the minimum wage. Others value him highly. He keeps the show on the road in a low key, avuncular kind of way. Personally, I think he is very skilled at chairing meetings though he is rather too house-trained for my liking. His long years as a banker have programmed him to swallow uncritically the professional opinions of staff even when they are crying out to be challenged.
The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, gets a useful $239,230. He gives a good impression of having a handle on things and I’ve never seen him (yet) lost for words at a Council meeting. His comparators would be Chief Executives in the same family or type of municipalities as Newmarket. In the same way, the Mayor’s salary should be compared with those in similar municipalities with similar levels of responsibility.
Big Salaries; Fair Taxation
It is impossible to talk about about big salaries without talking about fair taxation. They are two sides of the same coin. Four Federal tax bands for 2015 are simply not enough to capture the huge spread of taxable income, from modest to stellar. (The average Canadian income is $47,358)
The top rate of Federal tax is 29% of taxable income over $138,586. So our Mayor falls into the same tax band as, say, the Onex CEO, Gerry Schwartz, whose eye-watering total pay package is $87.9 million.
Absurd and indefensible?
You can check the Toronto Star's corrections by date here.