Derek Koel wrote a hard-hitting Port McNeill in Focus column last week about municipal remuneration in Port McNeill, and it may ring true for our town as well.
In Port Hardy, Bylaw 1083-2018 (A bylaw to provide for the payment of council member remuneration and expenses) was put up for first, second and third readings in the council chambers on June 26.
Port Hardy’s Remuneration Committee presented recommendations to mayor and council for a proposed 5.88 per cent increase in remuneration, meaning a roughly $2,000 increase of the mayor’s regular salary if it’s approved in further readings. These recommendations were made to accomodate for the recent changes in federal legislation, Bill C-34, where elected officials – municipal included – are to lose non-accountable allowances. Simply put, non-accountable allowances are those of which government officials do not need to submit receipts or justify their spending.
With that in mind, the committee’s reasoning behind such a recommendation was “to find a base earning where the proposed net pay would be equivalent to that under the upcoming Bill C-34”, according to the minutes of the regular council meeting a few weeks ago. They also commented that the wages right now are hovering around the provincial average.
Councillors Pat Corbett-Labatt, Dennis Dugas and Fred Robertson were opposed to this motion; however, I believe it’s a reasonable increase. For taxpayer’s it translates to 0.21 per cent of the total four per cent increase in property tax this year. In fact, mayor and council are completely justified in raising the tax base for their salary. They already make barely enough as it is – it’s hardly a living wage.
The mayor earns roughly $25,221.96 a year while councillors are entitled to $12,661.04. It’s clear that these elected officials sitting in local government care for our community, despite the complete lack of financial incentive.
The increase doesn’t necessarily benefit the council, anyway. In fact, it’s only being proposed so that their earnings can stay the same for next year, so without the non-accountable allowance they’d take a cut in wages. It’s certainly not to line their pockets.
But this brings up an entirely different question. Do mayor and council earn enough as it is? I’d argue not.
These elected officials are typically business people, taking time away from family and small businesses to try and make an impact on Port Hardy during their tenure. They are usually qualified for high earnings if they chose it, but instead, they many volunteer unpaid hours which is often the case for such a position.
What if council members were paid higher? Not only does it give incentive for extensive effort in municipal affairs, but it also attracts a wider variety of candidates with vastly different life and professional experience. All of which is good for our community.
So when Mayor Hank Bood proposed the remuneration increase, it certainly wasn’t out of self-interest. In my opinion, after the amount of years he’s spent in the mayoral position, he probably senses the amount of hours worked, time sacrificed from personal life and all of the unexpected, additional responsibilities that come along with it, warrants an increase in wage for that position.
On a side note, the mayor’s situation was unfair. Councillors split the vote 3-3, forcing the mayor to decide what could possibly be his wages for the next four years, if he chooses to run again this fall.
Needless to say, he was forced into a corner. Not to mention it’s at best a hazy, gray area to play politics in – at least in terms of conflict of interest when he was deciding the incoming mayor’s remuneration coming into effect January 1. He could have potentially opted out of the vote to show good will to taxpayers, but how could he when the council forced him to cast the deciding vote? Regardless, whether it was the mayor or a councillor that had the deciding vote, the proposed remuneration increase was still justified.
Thomas Kervin is a recent political science alumnus from Simon Fraser University. He was born and raised in Port Hardy. He’s also a First Nations person who wants to address issues facing Indigenous communities today.