On the firing of TransLink’s CEO

Yesterday TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis was pushed aside. This was widely seen as a surprise move, one that is supposed to “restore confidence” in TransLink’s leadership.

The timing is a little suspicious as it comes smack in the middle of Metro Vancouver’s campaign surrounding a 0.5% increase to the PST to pay for a number of transit-related improvements. The ‘no’ side has been using TransLink’s governance and “waste” as a stick, even going so far as to label Jarvis as “the face of the waste”. The ‘yes’ side’s message has largely focused on the benefits of the plan, largely ignoring the TransLink governance issue.

And even though TransLink governance isn’t on the ballot, this move brings it back into the forefront. Politically, it’s kind of odd to do this, because it gives more ammunition to the ‘no’ side.

Here’s one reason they might have made the move now, rather than potentially waiting until after the plebescite is over:

In 2012 Jarvis received $438,700 in total compensation, and in 2013 he received $468,015. While his salary plus transportation allowance increased by less than a thousand dollars, he did receive bonuses based on long-term targets that increased his total compensation. This rankled with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, because, as TransLink themselves say, “the CEO’s base salary has been frozen since January 1, 2013.” While his salary was frozen, he still took home more money because he did a good job, and rewarding performance in this way is apparently wasteful.

The CEO’s bonus consists of two parts: a short-term incentive plan (STIP) and a long-term incentive plan (LTIP). The STIP is based on the previous year’s performance, and can be up to 30% of his base salary. The LTIP was eliminated on December 31, 2012, but was based on targets between 2010 and 2012. This bonus gets paid out over three years, and the first year was 2013 (he received $43,400). He received the same amount in 2014.

Now, here’s the thing: TransLink has to file all of this information for the 2014 fiscal year, and they need to make the information public. They’re looking at all of this information now, and if past years are any indication, the year-end financials get released at the beginning of April. This is smack in the middle of the plebescite mail-in period.

A bombshell in the form of a huge STIP bonus (remember, it could go up to 30% of his base salary, up to $95,773) coming right in the middle of the voting? It makes it a lot easier for the ‘yes’ side to say “yes, and he is no longer collecting that bonus, and the interim CEO is collecting no such bonus, and the interim CEO will be examining executive compensation a lot more closely” than to say “yes, he got it for meeting targets”. A large STIP bonus would also play into the “TransLink is wasteful” myth and offer a huge distraction for the CTF to wield.

Is this what happened? I don’t know. We won’t know until April. But remember that the TransLink Board has a lot more information to go on than we do, and financial information is something they’re privy to that we’re not at this point. We’ll just have to wait until April.

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