A commission united?

Sandra Robinson, a member of the independent commission to review MLA compensation, has confirmed she "doesn't agree" with some of the panel's now controversial pay-and-pension plan recommendations. "There's quite a few," disagreements said Prof. Robinson, in an exclusive interview with Public Eye. But "the biggest area of disagreement would have been on the pension - both the type and the actual size of the pension." Explained Prof. Robinson, who teaches at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, "I would have been comfortable with a smaller employer contribution than the one that (fellow commissioners) Sue (Paish) and Joe (Wood) preferred. I was looking to keep it at 20 percent of salary per year on the employer side. And the plan they have is 34 percent currently. I also wanted there to be constraints on the amount of the employer contribution...to protect the taxpayers." Even more, surprising, though, is the fact Prof. Robinson says changes were made to the commission's recommendations while she was out of country.

"I had a long ago committed obligation to be in Europe to teach. So we had an agreed upon deadline" to finalize the commission's recommendations "before I was leaving. And it was about four days before our true deadline. So we worked right up to that deadline. It was a bit of work - cause we didn't all see eye to eye. But we negotiated out a set of recommendations and signed-off on those. And, then, it was only after I was in Europe that they changed their minds and came up with a different set" of recommendations. "So, yeah, to be completely left out - to have no influence on the outcome - was certainly frustrating."

Prof. Robinson said she was "just told - via email - they would be doing that." She went onto add, "I was okay with us not being unanimous. And I had said (before leaving for Europe), if we don't go that route, I'll write a dissent. So there was ample opportunity for us to have conflicting opinions. But, because we had reached agreement and I was convinced that we were unanimous, I left comfortably to Europe."

A dissenting report wasn't written. But, said Prof. Robinson, "It's kind of hard to write a dissent when you can't actually know what's going to be in the final report" - which she didn't see until it was publicly released. Prof. Robinson later attempted to retract her statements, which were made during an on-the-record, taped interview with Public Eye. The commission's final report acknowledges Prof. Robinson disagreed with "certain aspects of this report" but didn't elaborate. Public Eye was unable to contact the commission late yesterday.

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