DISTRICT OF PORT HARDY PHOTO Port Hardy council voted in favour of a wage increase for the incoming mayor and council.

Port Hardy councillors butt heads over wage increase

Mayor’s wage in 2019 will be $27,267 and councillors will be 50 per cent of the mayor’s wage.

The mayor’s paycheque for next year caused some heated discussion to erupt amongst Port Hardy councillors.

The District of Port Hardy’s wage increase for the incoming mayor and council was up for adoption last Tuesday night at their regular council meeting at the district office.

The district’s remuneration bylaw states that in May of each municipal election year, an independent committee will be formed to review and provide recommendations regarding mayor and council’s wages.

This year’s remuneration committee (W. Paul Grier, Donald Smyth, and Donna Gault) were provided with data on council wages from various communities throughout B.C., ultimately agreeing that the current council’s wages are reasonable and “fell close to the mean”.

However, the committee also reviewed the federal government’s Bill C-44 legislation (which states that as of 2019, elected officials will lose their non-accountable allowances), while also analyzing the impact the new legislation would have on council’s net pay, coming to the conclusion that “the mayor’s indemnity be increased to $27,267. In addition, it is the committee’s further recommendation that, effective Jan. 1, 2019, the mayor’s indemnity be increased by a percentage equal to the B.C. Consumer Price Index for the previous year. Finally, the committee recommends that the annual indemnity for individual councillors be set at 50 per cent of the indemnity paid to the mayor, also effective Jan. 1, 2019.”

Council had two options, either to approve the bylaw or to request amendments and send it back to staff.

“I need a motion to adopt,” said Coun. Leightan Wishart, who was filling in for Mayor Hank Bood (Bood went to a tourism event at the Port Hardy airport, choosing to miss the council meeting).

Coun. Rick Marcotte put forth a motion to approve the bylaw, which was seconded by Coun. John Tidbury.

Coun. Dennis Dugas countered Marcotte’s motion with a motion of his own to amend the bylaw, stating the information that was handed out to them in the past showed the average separation between mayor remuneration and councillor remuneration was around $10,000. “My concern at this particular time is that, the difference between a councillor’s amount of money received and the amount that the mayor receives, keeps getting bigger … I think that’s not fair, and the reason why I can say that now is that next year I won’t be a councillor (Dugas is running for mayor of Port Hardy).”

He added when you have salaries getting separated further and further, “the mayor keeps getting more and more — I know the councillors’ rates do go up, but they keep getting separated by a bigger number.”

Dugas ultimately wanted council to take a hard look at the wage separation, find a limit for the mayor and keep it at that. “I don’t think it should just keep getting bigger and bigger, because the work that the councillors are doing is just as important as what the mayor is doing.”

“Councillor Dugas makes a good point,” noted Coun. Fred Robertson, who then asked if the bylaw is delayed, would that force the new council to have to vote on their own salary, and if so, would it be illegal for them to do so.

Heather Nelson-Smith, Director of Corporate Services, said there would be no issue with the new mayor and council voting on their own wages because they are exempt from any conflict of interest on the issue. “It’s the same as tax rates, they can vote on it.”

Marcotte jumped back into the conversation at that point, asking Dugas if what he was arguing for is councillors getting more money.

“Yes,” said Dugas.

“Didn’t you — when this first came to us — vote against it?” asked Marcotte.

Dugas responded he did vote against the wage increase bylaw back in July, noting the reason he voted against it was he felt it wasn’t his place to vote for an increase when he was still a councillor. “Now that I’m not going to be a councillor in the next term, I thought it would be appropriate to bring this up now before it’s passed.”

Tidbury and Marcotte both stated they had a big problem with Dugas’ amendment for less mayor remuneration and a higher councillor wage, as did Coun. Pat Corbett-Labatt, who noted she was definitely not in favour of it.

It was voting time after that, and Dugas’ amendment ultimately did not pass.

Marcotte’s original motion to accept the wage increase bylaw was then brought back to the table. Marcotte and Tidbury both voted in favour of adopting the bylaw, while Dugas and Corbett-Labatt voted against it.

In what was a bizarre turn of events, Robertson actually tried to abstain from voting on the bylaw, but was informed by Nelson-Smith if he didn’t vote he would be marked down as being in favour of the bylaw.

Nelson-Smith explained the only way Robertson could actually abstain from voting would be if he was not present at the meeting (like Bood was).

Robertson stated he was not aware of this fact and asked for a re-vote.

Voting was held again, with Marcotte, Tidbury and Robertson all voting in favour of the bylaw being adopted (Robertson was the only councillor that voted against the bylaw back in July who changed his vote).

The wage increase bylaw was officially adopted, giving the next mayor of Port Hardy an annual wage of $27,267 and each councillor 50 per cent of the mayor’s wage ($13,633.5).

After the meeting ended, Robertson clarified the reason he ended up voting in favour of the bylaw was that he wanted to respect the first vote of council that happened back in July.

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