Delta’s five city councillors are calling on mayoral candidate George Harvie to correct his “distortion of the facts” regarding his role in developing Delta’s so-called golden handshake.
At a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Rotary Park in Ladner, Coun. Sylvia Bishop, who is running for mayor under the Team Delta banner, Coun. Robert Campbell, seeking re-election under Team Delta, and councillors Jeannie Kanakos and Bruce McDonald, both seeking re-election under the Independents Working for You banner, came together to demand that Harvie immediately set the record straight and apologize to Delta voters for misrepresenting the facts.
Coun. Heather King, who is not seeking re-election, was not on hand for the press conference, but is standing with her fellow councillors.
In a joint statement, the four councillors said Harvie, when he was Delta’s CAO, prepared a report to council in December 2016 that recommended an end of service benefit be paid to the mayor and councillors upon their departure. Council rejected the first version of the proposal, but a revision brought forward by Harvie in early 2017 was unanimously approved by council.
Now that he is running for mayor under the Achieving for Delta banner, Harvie has changed his tune, according to the councillors. He recently answered a series of questions posed by the Optimist in which he declared the end of service benefit “was a policy I took great exception to” and stated it is one of the key reasons he is running for mayor.
“This isn’t a case of the slates amalgamating on an issue, it’s the five members of council saying that statements made by Mr. Harvie are simply untrue,” said McDonald. “We were presented with information and we acted upon that and then the CAO came back and said I didn’t like it and I oppose it? It’s just not right and does not align at all with the truth.”
Council will be discussing a motion to review the golden handshake at its Oct. 15 meeting.
Bishop said the statement made by Harvie points to an issue of trust.
“Who can you trust and who can you believe?” asked Bishop, who also pointed to the Enviro-Smart issue. “For me, conferring with my council colleagues, I see this as an election based on an issue of trust. It is never wrong to pursue the truth and when you can work collaboratively it shows true leadership.”
Both McDonald and Campbell said they welcome a review of the policy.
“The concept makes total sense that municipal elected officials should receive some sort of benefit for the time they are elected, but maybe this is not the right way to do it and maybe it takes something like an independent person to look at all the evidence to come to some sort of a recommendation to this council,” said Campbell.
The golden handshake issue was brought forward several weeks ago by independent council candidate Mike Smith, who challenged how the end of service payouts were approved and was particularly critical of Kanakos.
The policy sees a one-time payout to council members at the end of their service. It’s based on length of service and is backdated at 12 years.