We were disappointed to learn that Woodlands County councillors approved a 15 percent pay hike during their 2019 budget deliberations.
We were mistakingly under the impression that although they had approved the funds for the increase, we did not believe it had come to fruition.
Sometimes during budget discussions councillors approve funds as a placeholder, for when the final decision will be made.
Admittedly it doesn’t happen that often, but then again, it isn’t so rare that it is unusual either.
That is what we thought was happening here. From the best of our knowledge, the only time councillors voted on anything on the topic of councillor compensation at a regular council meeting, at least in recent memory, was in September when they formed an ad-hoc councillor remuneration committee.
And when we looked to the county’s councillor compensation policy (Policy 1905-Travel, Subsistence and Honorariums) and noticed it had not been revised since 2017, we thought we were correct.
Unfortunately, we were not and we apologize for adding to the confusion.
It is also not entirely correct that they received a pay increase per se. As part of the 2017 federal budget, the one-third income tax exemption that existed for municipal elected officials since the early 1950s was eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2019.
To compensate for this loss in take-home pay, many municipal councils all across Canada gave themselves 14 to 20 per cent raises.
Now, we don’t beget anyone making a decent wage. In fact, in previous editorials, we have been big proponents of a living wage. Whatever salary a person can fairly negotiate, including movie stars who make $20 million a film.
When you are a public official it is a little different. Of course, they still deserve to be compensated fairly, but it has to be noted in many municipalities, including the two Barrhead communities and Woodlands County, being a councillor is a part-time job. Meaning most municipal officials, if they are still working, have what is considered full-time jobs, whether it is farming, a mechanic, business owner, et cetera. Jobs that take precedence over their part-time councillor positions.
Now, if being a councillor takes up as much time as a full-time position and takes precedence over what should be a sideline, fine let’s talk about a pay increase. If it’s not then they shouldn’t be compensated at a rate more than many of their constituents are making at their full-time jobs.
What we would like to learn from Woodlands County’s ad-hoc committee as well as the upcoming County of Barrhead’s remuneration committee is how much time, effort and expense a councillor uses to complete their duties. Once the public knows this information, they will be in a greater position to know if the pay is warranted.