City of Vancouver salaries reveal big spending on communications staff

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      The City of Vancouver spent $2.2 million on spin doctors in 2013.

      That’s according to data obtained through a freedom of information request and supplied to the Straight by the citizen-run website CityHallWatch.

      The money was paid to 40 employees whose titles indicate they performed communications work for the city, the park board, or Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. (The FOI response excludes information related to the police department.)

      The highest paid spokesperson was Dale Booth, who held the rank of assistant chief for emergency communications before he was appointed assistant chief for operations. Booth was paid $145,045.

      Not far behind him was Mairi Welman. She earned $131,354 in 2013 before taking a job with the District of North Vancouver.

      The only other spokesperson to earn six figures was Joyce Courtney, former manager of communications for the park board (since retired); she made $112,447.

      Kevin Quinlan, the mayor’s director of policy and communications, earned $72,656, up from $66,306 in 2012.

      According to an August 2013 report by the Globe and Mail, a Canadian journalist’s starting salary is between $25,000 and $40,000 a year. It's noted there that that can grow to six figures, if a reporter eventually moves up to the position of editor-in-chief at one of the country’s larger publications.

      Outside of communications, the highest paid individual employed by the city in 2013 was its fire chief, John McKearney. His salary was $347,762 (that number was inflated by changes to earned time benefits and is expected to decrease in 2014). City manager Penny Ballem came in second, with $339,219. Though not included in the FOI response, Vancouver’s chief of police, Jim Chu, earned more than $314,000 in 2013. Third on the list supplied to CityHallWatch was Francie Connell, director of legal services and solicitor general; she took home $301,117. The mayor’s chief of staff, Mike Magee, was paid $128,004.

      In related news, a report on B.C. public sector wages released today (September 16) states that municipal salaries in B.C. have grown at twice the rate as those of provincial core government employees.

      According to the review prepared by Ernst & Young, municipal employees' wages increased 38 percent from 2001 to 2012. For people employed by the province, earnings rose 19 percent during that period.

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      Boris Moris

      Sep 16, 2014 at 4:10pm

      In other earth shattering news today: The sun rose this morning and anxious city hall watchers fret about whether or not it will set tonight.


      Sep 16, 2014 at 5:39pm

      Remember kids, study hard in science and math where the salaries are rocketing because demand is through the roof.

      (said everyone who makes a living thanks to a cozy below the radar nook of nepotism, obfuscation, and general waste)

      Oh come on

      Sep 16, 2014 at 7:38pm

      It's not really fair to compare civic government communications job salaries to journalism starting salaries -- the range of which you've cited here, I might add, doesn't even cut it when it comes to what's considered a living wage in Vancouver ($19.14/hr, or roughly $40k per year).

      That said, I think we can all agree it would be very educational if you plotted these salaries against the salaries of Georgia Straight staffers, complete with names!

      Martin Dunphy

      Sep 16, 2014 at 9:39pm

      Oh come on:

      I will note (for what it is worth) that many corporate or government communications people are either retired or bought-out journalists or failed/virgin journalists who parlayed a degree, diploma, or certificate directly into a fat(ter) paycheque.

      Captain Factcheck

      Sep 16, 2014 at 11:40pm's salary calculator says these are all either within range or below what a Director-level comms person would make in the private sector. Quinlan, for example is getting paid half of what a person in his position would make. Hardly a cause for outrage or even column inches.


      Sep 17, 2014 at 12:02am

      @Captain Factcheck,

      Where in this column is outrage expressed?

      It doesn't even justify inches? In other words, you'd rather remain unaware of knoweldge available to the public? What is the benefit of remaining ignorant of fact?

      No where in the article is much of a fuss made. It's a simple explanation of how a few of your tax dollars are being spent. You're upset because this information was shared?

      I don't get that.


      Sep 17, 2014 at 3:09am

      Cptn Fatcheck is correct, and I think a different headline is needed or Travis, who usually seems sharp, well-researched and insightful, was having an off-day. One could make a larger salary in comm for a corp or elsewhere, and some salaries included here do not seem relevant or connected to spin docs. This also does not include or acknowledge any of city's comm contractors, unless they're to be considered part of '40 employees', but no clarity there. why not run a complete list if you're going to do a copy/paste job and give a figure with limited info to back up? or better yet why not instead of going off-track with comparisons to journalist salaries, including VPD salaries, etc., call these peeps out on their unethical practices? It's the way those millions are being utilized that should cause outrage, not the fact that understandably jaded journos are underpaid and city spends loads on comm - tell us something we don't know.


      Sep 17, 2014 at 7:46am

      The 'writer' isn't really serious. This is just the Georgia Straight switching over from attempting to discredit the provincial government during the teacher's strike to going after Vision Vancouver. Expect to see some increasingly hysterical stories that will completely dominate the rag as the elections draws near. Don't forget that the editor of the GS (Comrade Charlie) is an old-style socialist and will attack anything that crosses the line to the right.

      Tommy Khang

      Sep 17, 2014 at 8:29am

      I was hoping for more of a headline like - Party Hacks make Big Bucks at City Hall. Seriously though as taxpayers we have to pay for the likes of Quinlan and Magee to spout off more Vision Vancouver BS? That's the outrage right there.


      Dec 31, 2014 at 1:51am

      "This is where out Tax dollars are used" It's the biggest example of injustice. Why they are getting so much high salaries? <a href="">Salary of radiology tech worker</a> is something between $55,000 to $60,000 and the responsibility is much much higher as compare to someone who just only have to red few lines.