J.R. RARDON PHOTO Port McNeill in Focus is a bi-weekly opinion piece, written by Port McNeill locals Derek Koel and Matt Martin, that focuses primarily on various issues going on in and around the town. Have some thoughts about Port McNeill in Focus? Email editor@northislandgazette.com and we will publish them online and in print.

Port McNeill in Focus: Is the compensation enough for you to take the plunge into local politics?

“Silly season is upon us, political junkies know the municipal election is coming Oct. 20”

The Town of Port McNeill’s traditionally staunch, conservative fiscal attitude resulted in no councillor or mayor pay increases for about 15 years.

That finally changed in 2014 thanks to a committee, and an indexed pay increase based on other communities our size was established. With that, the sticky business of voting yourself a pay raise went away until the 2017 federal budget put it back on the council table.

Basically, the feds are clawing back a tax free allowance that municipal politicians currently enjoy. 2019 will result in a reduction in Port McNeill mayor and council paycheques, estimated by town staff to be $1,800 and $1,000, respectively.

The Town of Port McNeill’s top guns, Treasurer Dan Rodin and Chief Administrative Officer Sue Harvey, were on top of the issue early on. Their March 5 report to council laid it all out on the line.

Two options were recommended, adopt a new bylaw to make up for the pay cut or do nothing. You know exactly where this is going, don’t you? A resounding motion to do nothing was passed with very little discussion at the council table.

It seems they would prefer the next council to be saddled with the issue, or perhaps, it’s just another classic case of Port McNeill council pinching pennies. Why must we always do it on the cheap? We just bought Public Works a second hand backhoe, for example.

It seems the new pay rate of $725/month for a councillor and $1,400/month for the mayor is enough for them, but would that be enough compensation for you to take the plunge into politics? One does not generally enter politics for the money, usually it’s a genuine desire to serve and improve one’s community, but let’s face it – money matters.

How about including the holy grail of public service jobs, otherwise known as a health and benefits package for mayor and council. This incentive might encourage a more diverse slate of candidates on the ballot, not just the usual suspects.

Recently, both the Regional District of Mount Waddington and Port Hardy council spared their future elected officials the grief and made the call for pay increases to match the fed’s claw back. Holding the line on their pay seems more than reasonable with the rising costs of living these days.

There is still time before the election, for a brave (outgoing?) Port McNeill councillor to put forth a motion to avoid the council pay cut and, more importantly, allow the newly elected council to get down to important council business that has been left on the back burner.

Silly season is upon us, political junkies know the municipal election is coming Oct. 20, but does the general public know? If you are thinking of throwing your name in the hat, the Sept. 14 nomination deadline is coming up quick. Nomination packages are available at the town office.

Not sure whether to go for it or not? Wondering who else is running and how you would stack up against the competition? Try this old trick. Sign up as a candidate by Sept. 14 and when the candidates are declared the next day, mull it over, then either go for it or pull the plug before the “Candidate Nomination Withdrawal Deadline” on Sept. 21.

So far, it’s been pretty quiet on the election front, with Gaby Wickstrom officially first out of the Facebook political gate, publicly declaring her intention to run for mayor. I expect Shirley Ackland to run for another term, but after her anti- Facebook rant at a recent Council meeting – I don’t expect a Facebook announcement!

Let me bring up an elephant in the council room. Councillor Aaron Frost has had a dismal council meeting attendance record for quite some time, contributing to our already lame duck council.

If you are thinking of running for office make sure you have the time. We all know things change, stuff happens, if you can’t do it anymore then step aside so someone else can.

Derek Koel is a local businessman, residing in Port McNeill since 2000. Over the years he has served on many local boards, committees, and organizations. He is a father of two, and is interested in healthy living, outdoor recreation, and local issues in the community.

* The views and opinions expressed in this opinion-editorial are those of the author and do not reflect the views of Black Press or the North Island Gazette. If you have a different opinion, we request you write to us to contribute to the conversation.

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