Council members finally get what they have earned. Now look for the misinformed remarks about the way politicians pay themselves.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON December 13, 2011  –  Well – this time it is actually going to happen.  Your city Council is going to get a pay raise and this time they will accept the money and not make mockery out of the procedure that was put in place to remunerate our city Councillors.

Mayor Goldring reluctantly said “it was time to get this out on the table”.  Back in 2010, when times were tougher than they are today Council decided to take a pass on a pay raise.  They were entitled but they said nope – keep the money.

When there was mention in other media that they were going to get a pay raise – there was all kinds of public yapping.  Much of it uninformed.

The city had put in place a mechanism that determined how much the pay increase would amount to.  The council members themselves had no input on what the amount of a pay increase would be.  Nor did they have any direct input on what the mechanism to be used was.  Using this approach, Council members would get reasonable pay increases, just the way staff at city hall do – but let it be noted that there is no merit pay for Council members whereas there is merit pay for city hall staff.

They work hard, they serve you well; very well for that matter. Pay them what they are worth and insist that they stop playing political football with the economic adjustments that were awarded by a citizens committee.

There are no annual bonuses.  They don’t get paid overtime – and trust me on this one – every one of them earns every dollar they are given.  Council alone is a big enough job – add in their Regional responsibilities – and these men and woman are underpaid.

But in 2010 and 2011 – they weren’t prepared to put up with the public outcry so – for two years in a row they passed – deferred was the word they used, the pay increases they were given.  Note again – they did not give these pay increases to themselves – they follow the mechanism put in place by a citizen advisory board.

Mayor Goldring feels now that not accepting the pay raises that were due in 2010 and 2011 was "perhaps a mistake".

Goldring noted that the deferring in the past two years was “probably a mistake”.

The discussion around the Council horse shoe ranged from Councillor Sharman taking issue with what he called the “ideological approaches” where Council members were saying the money should go to the poor instead or those who took the position that they could afford to go without a pay raise.  He suggested those who felt that way should make a personal statement and give their increase to their charity of choice.

Roy Make, Executive Director Human Resources for the city was asked what people should do if they did not want to accept the pay increase and he replied – “just write me a letter”.

Councillor Meed Ward saw the approach to paying the council members was a pretty blunt instrument and her view was that a 1.5% increase was more in line with her thinking.  She indicated she would be making personal decisions.

Mayor Goldring pointed out that the 3.2% being proposed – based on the mechanism the citizens advisory committee suggested – would amount to 1% for the 2010, 2011 and the 2012 time frames, which is a slick way of saying they are not getting that much in the way of a pay increase.

It is probably time for there to be a new citizen’s advisory board on the matter of remunerating politicians – but that’s another matter than can come up next year under Good Governance.  If they do convene such a committee that group should include in their policy that the funds are given and that a council member cannot refuse.  This making a political football out of what a Councillor is paid is nothing more than political posturing – the sort of thing you expect in small provincial communities.

We will grow up over time.


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