Photo by Whitehorse Star
Coun. Dan Boyd and Coun. Roslyn Woodcock
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Coun. Dan Boyd and Coun. Roslyn Woodcock
A huge jump in remuneration is closer to becoming a reality for the next group of city councillors who will be elected in October.
After a lengthy debate Monday night, council – in a 4-3 vote – passed first and second readings of the remuneration bylaw for the next term of council.
In it, the mayor’s annual pay would rise from $87,942 to $101,100 while councillor’s pay would bound from $20,496 to $36,036.
Councillors Jocelyn Curteanu, Dan Boyd and Samson Hartland voted against the bylaw.
The large increases come in light of impending changes to the federal tax regime where a portion of remuneration currently exempt from income tax will be taxed beginning in 2019.
With the tax change, the raise will simply mean the next mayor’s take home pay will remain about the same.
For councillors’ take home pay to remain the same, the honourarium would only have to rise to $24,315.
However, the increase to $36,036 came out of a report showing many other cities of similar size in western Canada pay their part-time councillors an average of 36 per cent of the mayor’s full-time salary.
“For incoming councillors, comparative data from cities with roughly similar populations in western Canada indicates that a rationale exists to set councillors’ salaries at 36 per cent of the mayor’s salary,” it was highlighted in a report to council.
“This calculation would set the ratio of councillors’ salaries to the mayor’s at both the average and median of that ratio in comparable communities.”
Boyd was quick to put forward a motion Monday that would have accounted for Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) changes as well as annual changes to the Consumer Price Index (which are also factored into the bylaw).
Boyd proposed that councillors’ pay be set at the $24,315 rather than the $36,000-plus.
He pointed out he’s not in support of the proposed operating budget due to the more than four per cent, on average, tax increase to non-residential property owners.
The city is also working on union negotiations this year, and it wasn’t that long ago that increases for management personnel were limited to around just one per cent.
It’s difficult to ask for such a steep hike to council’s honouraria at a time when the city is trying to keep costs down, Boyd told his colleagues.
As Hartland concurred: “This would not be the appropriate time for (moving to) 36 per cent (of the mayor’s salary).”
Hartland later countered arguments made by Coun. Rob Fendrick that if the bar is set too low for pay, it can be a disincentive to those looking at running for office.
Hartland also disagreed with comments from Coun. Roslyn Woodcock on the need to attract candidates from many walks of life in the city.
She noted it can be very difficult for someone who is not retired or not already financially well-off to run for council.
The city has fallen behind the eight-ball when it comes to councillors’ remuneration, Fendrick said, and there’s good reason to increase it to be in line with 36 per cent of the mayor’s salary.
Hartland pointed out though that the 2015 election – where three candidates ran for mayor and 22 vied for the six councillor seats – drew a “crop of council candidates from all walks of life.
“I don’t believe remuneration is a barrier to run,” he said.
Coun. Betty Irwin agreed with Woodcock.
Irwin noted the increase might encourage those who would not otherwise run to get their names on the ballot and bring a new perspective to council chambers.
Some have noted that in the past, some councillors have opted not to take the honourarium.
Irwin suggested that that just isn’t an option for others – like herself.
She noted she does not make a lot from the Canada Pension Plan and old age security. Without the honourarium in place, she said, she likely could not afford to sit on council.
Irwin was also quick to note that the role of a councillor also involves a lot of time.
“It’s not just a 20-hour-a-week job,” Irwin said. She highlighted the work that goes into not only attending meetings, but reading documents, responding to residents’ concerns and more.
Curteanu said she sees the need to increase the councillors’ pay, but does not believe it was clear exactly how much it should rise.
“I think we need to do a little better,” she said, voting against Boyd’s proposed amendment.
Hartland and Boyd were the only members to vote in favour of his proposal.
With that, Curteanu then brought forward her own amendment that would have seen councillors’ remuneration in the next term rise to be in line with the CRA changes. It also provided for a further 2.5 per cent based on the average amount Canadian salaries are anticipated to rise in 2018.
Curteanu suggested that during the next term of council, the city could then do a more in-depth project, looking at pay for council members in other jurisdictions.
The comparison provided to the city focused on communities with similar population sizes. However, it did not take into account the responsibilities of each municipality.
As an example, she noted some cities offer policing, others don’t.
Some, like Whitehorse and Yellowknife, are capital cities for their territories while others are not, and so on. It’s not as simple as comparing apples to apples, she commented.
“We’re comparing fruit baskets to fruit baskets,” Curteanu said.
To look at a fair remuneration, she suggested, the city should take more time to do an in-depth analysis of information from other communities.
Mayor Dan Curtis defended the large increase as a reflection of the work of council members. He argued that the needed analysis has been done in the comparison provided to city council.
“I feel a thorough analysis has been done,” Curtis said.
Other council members also reiterated the points they had made earlier in defending the large hike.
Woodcock pointed out that council is a different experience to when she does other “semi-volunteer” work for which she’s paid honouraria.
“Nobody s---s on me for that work,” she said, going on to argue again that council needs more of a cross-section of people to serve.
Curteanu, Hartland and Boyd were the only members to vote in favour of Curteanu’s motion, with the proposal then defeated.
Before going back to the main motion for the steep hike, Woodcock said she’d be willing to consider the honourarium for councillors increasing to 30 per cent of the mayor’s salary, though there was no support expressed for that by anyone else on council.
Members then finally voted on whether to move forward with the proposal to put the salary at 36 per cent of the mayor’s pay and move the salaries up in light of the CRA changes, with a vote of 4-3 in favour of that, and first and second readings passing.
Third reading will come forward later this month.
In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.
Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.