Winnipeg councillors vote against ending severance payments

Winnipeg city council has voted 10-6 against a cost-cutting measure, proposed by Mayor Brian Bowman, that would end severance payments for council members who retire or get voted out of office.

Mayor Brian Bowman had vowed to end practice of paying severance to ex-politicians

Winnipeg city council voted a motion on Wednesday to end the practice of paying severance for any mayor or councillor who chooses not to seek re-election or loses in a civic election. (CBC)

Winnipeg city council has voted 10-6 against a cost-cutting measure, proposed by Mayor Brian Bowman, that would end severance payments for council members who retire or get voted out of office.

The vote came following hours of lively discussion on Wednesday, with councillors speaking passionately on both sides of the debate.

Council did vote in favour of reducing salary top-ups for the mayor, committee chairs and speakers, as well as trimming the expenses they can take from their ward allowances.

The following council members voted in favour of scrapping the severances:

  • Mayor Brian Bowman.
  • Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James-Brooklands).
  • Coun. Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo).
  • Coun. Janice Lukes (St. Norbert).
  • Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona).
  • Coun. John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry).

These councillors voted against the proposal:

  • Coun. Matt Allard (St. Boniface).
  • Coun. Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan).
  • Coun. Shawn Dobson (St. Charles).
  • Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski).
  • Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).
  • Coun. Cindy Gilroy (Daniel McIntyre).
  • Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital).
  • Coun. Mike Pagtakhan (Point Douglas).
  • Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan).
  • Coun. Devi Sharma (Old Kildonan).

Those who voted against the severance cut include three members of the executive policy committee, also known as the mayor's cabinet: Pagtakhan, who is deputy mayor, Browaty and Mayes.

Political 'payout?'

During debate on the motion, Gerbasi said the discussion regarding severance payments would be better suited for the city's governance committee, while Eadie took issue with Bowman calling the severance payments a "political payout," calling that description "sleazy and disgusting."

Eadie argued that former politicians have difficulty finding work after leaving office.

Mayor Brian Bowman argued that severance payments for council members are a "political payout," and the cost savings from eliminating those payments would fund numerous city programs. (CBC)
But Bowman said no one has cushy careers to go back to after leaving politics. He insisted that severance payments are a "political payout" of sorts.

The current city policy on severance for politicians was approved by council in 2011. Bowman promised during this fall's civic election campaign to scrap the payments if he is elected mayor.

On Wednesday, Bowman said every councillor makes a salary that puts them among the top 10 per cent of Canadians.

The cost savings from eliminating severance payments to council members would fund numerous city programs, he added.

Morantz spoke in favour of Bowman's proposal, citing the financial challenges the city faces.

'We are in a difficult budget cycle and we have to lead by example," he said, adding that being on council is "not a job, it's public service."

Lukes, who is acting deputy mayor, said politics opens doors for people and gives members skills. She added that council members are adequately compensated.

Allard said he would not vote in favour of eliminating severance, but he does support reductions to salary top-ups. He argued that council should draw talent from people of all economic means.

Browaty shared concerns that councillors are meddling with their own compensation.

Wyatt expressed support for the severance cut and called on his fellow councillors to quit the "navel gazing and collective whining" and move forward together.

In the end, Bowman called Wednesday's debate on the belt-tightening measures healthy and open.

"As elected officials, we must begin holding ourselves accountable first to higher standards if we expect that anyone else, namely our citizens, ever could," he said in a news release issued late in the afternoon.

"But I am proud of the amount of support there was on council today to eliminate these payouts and thank all members for the open dialogue and honesty they brought to this important debate today; I wish there was more appetite for my colleagues to have voted for the best interests of Winnipeggers who voted us all in, than there was to support their own interests."


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