Citizens should determine council wages
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | Nov. 30, 2017|
It’s a good time to talk about how much municipal councillors are, and should be, paid in Haliburton County. If there are to be any changes at Dysart et al, or at the three other municipalities, the time to increase, freeze or decrease wages is now – so that the new rates of pay, and in some cases benefits, are in place for the new councils that are elected next October.
Dysart et al councillors, who make less than any other councillors in the county, have been discussing their remuneration in recent weeks. We talked to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s top media relations spokesperson, and he said the government of Ontario views municipalities as responsible and accountable governments, with the authority to make decisions within their jurisdiction. In other words, it’s up to each municipality to make decisions regarding council remuneration.
Many councils in Ontario delegate the task of reviewing pay and benefits to a citizens review committee first and we think that’s a smart, arms-length, approach.
In Guelph, for example, this type of review is done every four years, or once a council term. Council still gets the final say. But, if approved, the recommendations of the Citizens Review Committee are applied to the incoming term of council, in other words after the municipal election, not before. In non-election years, this committee may recommend CPI increases every Jan. 1. That’s also prudent.
Peterborough City Council also just went through a similar process. Last year, council asked that a citizens’ committee be formed to determine whether the pay for council is sufficient. Citizens applied to take part. The committee recently ruled that councillors get paid enough and don’t need a raise. Peterborough councillors earn a base pay of $27,720. They’re part-timers. The mayor’s base pay, in case you’re interested, is $67,703. It’s a full-time gig. The report said the committee wanted to ensure the rate was enough to attract good candidates but not so high that the only reason people would go after a seat on council was for money.
The City of Kawartha Lakes, which goes to eight councillors from 16 next October, just voted a $10,000 increase for councillors, arguing they’re going to be much busier with their ranks cut in half. No citizens review committee. And, now, they’ll be paid more than their counterparts in a much larger Peterborough.
We’re not going to say whether or not councillors here make enough money. That’s a subject for another editorial. However, we would endorse striking a citizens committee to look into politician’s salary levels at the county and four lower tier municipalities. Doing this on a four-year basis also means that nobody on council ever has to ask for a review again, since the subject of how much they get paid can be touchy with ratepayers.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.