Meed Ward gets the free parking and transit passes for city staff on the table – council was not pleased.

By Pepper Parr

March 6, 2014


The evidence Meed Ward put on the table was pretty persuasive – parking is a taxable benefit except in some very specific cases – the disabled and those who need their car to do their jobs.

City employees are given a choice in terms of the perks they get – they can get a free transit pass or a free parking spot in any one of the city’s parking lots.

How many of the parking spots in this building are used by city staff – free?

Meed Ward did her homework and found that the city pays $16,000 for free transit passes and $217,042 for parking spaces.  That is tax money is transferred into accounts that are then used to pay for the parking spaces or transit passes.

Meed Ward pointed out that there was a matter of unfairness and that the city should not be using tax payer money to provide something free to an employee when Canadian Revenue Agency rules say parking is a taxable benefit.

There wasn’t much joy seen on the faces of the other six council members.  None of them wanted to do anything until there was a report.  Mayor Goldring was close to brusque with his remarks,  Meed Ward may be right, she may be wrong – I don’t want to implement anything without a report.

Councillors Lancaster and Dennison shared the Mayors position – give us a report.  Councillor Craven didn’t say a word.  Councillor Taylor wanted to know if this would apply to every city employee – even those working out at Paletta Mansion.

Councillor Sharman was chairing the meeting at this point because Meed Ward, the actual chair was discussing her motion.

Sharman wondered aloud if the parking was not a right of employment and also what impact would it have on attendance and morale.  He actually said that because salary increases were just 1% this year that employees had paid for their parking spaces “over and over and over”.

One could almost hear the feet of the council members being dragged across the floor – they just did not want to do this.There were three votes involved – the first was to get a report from Staff on what the implications were, Dennison and Craven did not vote.  The second vote was to remove the $217,042 from the 2015 budget and to work out way to remove what would have been spent during 2014 – assuming the report council members insisted on supports the position Meed Ward had taken. Meed Ward was the only council member who voted for the motion – it failed.  The third vote was to remove the $16,000 allocated for free transit passes – it too suffered the same fate.

One could almost hear the feet of the council members being dragged across the floor – they just did not want to do this.  They behaved as if Meed Ward had done something rude in a room full of people with sensitive noses.

Based on the evidence she put forward it would certainly appear that she was absolutely correct.  Parking is a taxable benefit – if your employer gives it to you – you must declare that benefit and pay taxes on it.

The President of the hospital pays for his parking spot.  The Halton Board of Education has asked us to clarify the question we put to their communications people on whether or not teacher parking is treated as a taxable benefit.  The teachers might be able to get away with this one in that there is no known price to park in a school parking lot whereas the spaces city employees use has a price that everyone else has to pay.

Mayor Goldring and most of his colleagues carp consistently about the high salaries paid municipal civil servant; Mayor Goldring sits on a committee of large city mayors looking at ways to bring municipal human resource costs into line with the public sector.

Mayor Goldring and most of his colleagues carp consistently about the high salaries paid municipal civil servants.When an opportunity to show some leadership and demonstrate to city staff that some controls are needed and ways have to be found to reduce the cost of human resources one would have hoped the tone would have been considerably different.

Meed Ward has always had an issue with free parking.  Most of the time she walks to city hall from her home which is a few blocks away.  Each council member is given a parking spot right outside the back end of city hall.   Meed ward feels they should be paying for that spot and even though she seldom uses the spot allocated to her she apparently return the cost of the parking space to the city each month.  She opposed the car that the Mayor is provided as well.

Background links:

Meed Ward announces she plans to ask council t0 remove free parking perk.

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8 comments to Meed Ward gets the free parking and transit passes for city staff on the table – council was not pleased.

  • G. Stevenson

    I find it absolutely amazing to read comments from those who don’t go out and investigate the full story. You need to walk in others’ shoes before you throw the pettiness into everything.

    Municipal staff are hired for their expertise. There are engineers, planners, clerks, economic development professionals, human resources professionals. They use there expertise to write recommendations in reports for the elected officials to base their decisions on. Recommendations that have to be impartial, have to be based on their best knowledge of the city for which they work and based on the health, safety and wellness of the residents. Reports come in front of Council so they can understand all impacts before making decisions. Imagine a council just basing a decision on what a few of their constituents want. Decisions would end up being made only for the trivial few who yell the loudest instead of for the vital many that live, work and play in a municipality.

    A political life is not an easy one either. I can only imagine that you can never turn it off. People know you when you’re out picking up a few groceries, putting gas in the car, cutting your lawn. I suspect a politician is always under the microscope. As for the Mayor having a leased car – he attends multiple meetings and acts as the City’s representative. Would you wish him to bike? Step back a bit everyone.

    I look at the issue of parking in the downtown this way…. City Hall has outgrown its usefulness in the downtown. It outgrew its usefulness as soon as the city had to start spending the big bucks to lease floors in the building across the street. There is not enough parking downtown to meet the current needs. How are citizens supposed to get engaged at city hall when they can’t get to city hall. How many have thought about joining an advisory committee only to think about the congestion and lack of parking to get to the committee meetings? Try and find a parking spot when there’s hot issues on a Committee and/or Council agenda.

    This city needs to looks at offering what every other municipality offers in this Region, and that includes the region, a well laid out municipal civic centre with adequate free parking for visitors and staff.

    I’m sure a developer would love to buy the property where the current city hall stands. Great place for more intensification to bring in more tax dollars…. and offset the cost of a new City Hall.

  • Nathaniel Fisher

    Do any of you realize that 1/3 of the Mayor and Councillor’s salary is tax free?????
    Those savings are more than enough to subsidize their car costs. Lets be honest, the tax savings should REPLACE the additional car costs. You can preach austerity while stuffing your pockets.
    Way to go Marianne.

    Editor’s note: Actually that is no true. Councillors are paid roughly $50,000 by the Region and $50,000 by the city. Councillors get a $9000 expense account – and they post what that money was spent on twice a year. They get medical coverage and pension benefits just the way every other city employee does. The Mayor is paid more and gets the use of a leased car.
    The good ones work very hard. They are not all good.

    • Orest Bizinski

      So, mister smarty pants; which ones are good? and which ones are “not all good”?

  • marie

    another report…for Craven to hide behind. Good work Marianne!!! All employee benefits are taxable – simple business practice.

    • Samantha

      “Good work Marianne”, are you serious. Apart from being a whistleblower to the CRA what exactly did she achieve. Every report I read regarding the budget meeting indicated that every motion she put forward was easily defeated. Hardly an election platform. We need change in Ward 2.

  • Penny Hersh

    Once again Council had an opportunity to do the right thing and failed. I am sick of reports – it is simply a stall tactic. Why should taxpayers pay for City Employees parking or transit. i resent the statement that the employees have paid over and over for this in lost wage increases. Many people in private industry jobs have taken cuts and salary freezes as well. What makes the employees at City Hall special?

    I hope the residents of Burlington remember how their councillor protected their interests and vote accordingly in October 2014.

  • Ah, yes, a report, always a report before decisions are made. Apparently, nothing is ever wrong on the face of it. No, only wrong if a report says it is.

    And why does the mayor *need* a car? We are a small city and we don’t have money for big city perks like this.

    I don’t always agree with Meed Ward’s progressive politics, but she’s proven to be a winner at City Hall, and we need others to follow her example.

  • Pat

    One way to cut human resource costs is to stop with all the staff reports, especially for items such as this. Meed Ward is right in handling the matter this way.

    Sharman sounds more and more and more and more like a fool with every naive comment he makes about everything. What is this guy talking about?

    City staff should be taking the bus.

    Why does the mayor get a car? That is so stupid in so many ways.