Mayor Naheed Nenshi on Thursday, September 12, 2019. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Calgary
Azin Ghaffari / Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia Calgary
Calgary city council members voted to scrap a 50-plus-year-old allowance for retiring employees in a 13-1 vote Tuesday night.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said during the meeting a legal opinion recommended the date to end the fund through grandfathering was Dec. 31, 2021, with city lawyer Jill Floen saying it would have to be incorporated into collective bargaining agreements.
But moments before the final vote, which saw only Coun. Ray Jones in opposition, Nenshi said the debate brought forth “serious accusations” he felt were unacceptable.
“I’ve been extremely unhappy with the tone many of us have taken on this issue,” he added. “Rather than . . . asking the question and making our point of view clear, we’ve heard as recently as tonight serious accusations, innuendo . . . (and) that there’s something nefarious going on here.
“I don’t like any of that. I think the tone of questioning our colleagues took at our PFC (priorities and financial committee) meeting last week was unconscionable in terms of casting allegations on our colleagues that work at the city.
“I really do think the rhetoric we heard about this has been the worst I’ve seen in my time in this chair. I don’t think it’s fair and I don’t think it’s right . . . I think we all need to take a look in the mirror as to how we conduct ourselves.”
Coun. Jeromy Farkas had sought to advance the date of ending the allowance to Jan. 31, 2020, but the motion was shot down, with only Farkas and councillors George Chahal, Joe Magliocca and Sean Chu supporting it.
Floen noted the risk was high the city could face legal challenges if the date wasn’t extended to the end of 2021.
There was no indication the payout, which would see some retiring employees given a benefit equivalent to their annual vacation pay, was ever approved by city council, a memo sent to councillors last week said. But some records showed the benefit existed since at least 1964, with senior officials endorsing its continued practice in 1981.
Nenshi, however, agreed it is time to end the payouts.
“Ultimately, I think we’re all going to agree in a minute here that this practice has to end,” Nenshi said moments before the vote. “It’s not because we’re taking a run at our colleagues, it’s because it very clearly said in the report that the rationale for having something like this around attraction and retention doesn’t work.
“Why are we doing it if it doesn’t actually help us attract and keep people in the job?”
The fund will be grandfathered for existing employees and eliminate the provision for new hires at the end of the next round of labour negotiations.