THE BLOG

How Much Does TransLink's CEO Make?

10/17/2013 03:48 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
If TransLink is as broke as it claims to be, why are taxpayers so grossly overpaying its chief executive officer?

Ian Jarvis received $394,730 in salary, incentives and taxable benefits in 2012, plus another $32,552 in taxpayer-funded petition contributions. On top of that, Jarvis took $11,418 in "other" benefits, including a "Wellness Allowance" that apparently only the CEO is eligible for. That's a total compensation package of $438,700.

But let's stick to the $394,730 in salary, incentives and taxable benefits, and do some comparison shopping to put that amount into perspective.

Jarvis made $140,000 more last year than the province's deputy transportation minister, Grant Main.

He made $200,000 more than Premier Christy Clark. Clark wasn't alone; Jarvis out earned Prime Minister Stephen Harper by nearly $75,000.

Some TransLink supporters will no doubt suggest that Jarvis had to be paid that much -- how else would the agency attract "the best and the brightest"? Of course, that tired line is false, too.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), by no means a lean organization, paid its CEO Andy Byford $294,366 plus $14,000 in taxable benefits. That's $88,000 less than Jarvis was paid, despite the fact the TTC's total revenue is double TransLink's.

Byford was hired away from Sydney, Australia, taking a 28 per cent pay cut to go to Toronto. Clearly, there is enough value in living and running transit systems in Canada that taxpayers do not need to overpay to get people.

A little further east, the annual salary of Societe de Transport de Montreal (STM) director-general Carl Desrosiers is listed at $297,000. Interestingly, STM's annual $1.3 billion budget is almost identical in size to TransLink's, yet the Lower Mainland agency pays their CEO $97,000 more. Desrosiers was formerly second-in-command at STM, making $261,000 -- a salary that wouldn't crack TransLink's top five.

In Seattle, King County Metro general manager Kevin Desmond's 2012 salary works out to $191,645 CDN, an astonishing $203,000 a year less than Jarvis.

Joni Earl, the CEO of Washington State's Sound Transit, made just over $201,000, including a $6,000 bonus, in 2011. Amazingly, Jarvis's bonus was close to ten times what Earl received. Earl also turned down a raise in January 2010 -- something TransLink officials would be wise to emulate given their never-ending demands for more taxes and fares.

Portland, Oregon, is a city continually held up as a great example of transit planning. TriMet's Neil McFarlane's salary is $228,440 CDN, and included a 3 per cent raise -- after a three-year pay freeze. Jarvis was appointed as TransLink CEO in 2010, and his salary has jumped 10.8 per cent in just two years.

Over the past few years, CTF, political and media scrutiny of TransLink has forced multiple high-level audits, all of which have come back with recommendations on how TransLink can be more efficient. These audits didn't drill down into specific program spending, which would have revealed millions more in savings.

Further, the TransLink commissioner found that while frontline bus service is being squeezed, corporate costs continue to grow at TransLink head office. "Even excluding Compass card and fare gates, and studies, corporate costs increased by 11.2 per cent between 2012 and 2015, which significantly exceeds inflation," the commissioner wrote.

Jarvis claims TransLink is doing all it can to save money, but one wonders how looking in the mirror at his own pay packet escaped his attention.

Before TransLink executives continue their push for massive tax increases to pay for their $23 billion wish list, they would be wise to slash their own salaries. It is clear from looking at the marketplace - if one can mutate such a word to include a transit monopoly - that Lower Mainland taxpayers are overpaying.