Mar. 15, 2022

It's time to set a pay formula for elected municipal officials

The provincial government’s decision to benchmark minimum wages is a forward-thinking move. Tying increases to the inflation rate takes it out of the political realm, a hot potato for politicians for ages.

The next increase, effective June 1, is 2.8 per cent, 45 cents to $15.65 per hour. 

Labour Minister Harry Bains said now wages keep pace in a predictable way providing certainty for businesses as well. Workers need to be able to keep up with the cost of living, he added.

The amount of the raise has brought some concern from the business community, but it’s difficult to buy into their argument. When the cost of living goes up it goes up the same for everybody, businesses and workers. That’s just arithmetic. It allows them certainty to make better business planning decisions.

With that move, would it be too much to expect that government would now have the courage to move into compensation for elected municipal officials. Now they set their own wages, something that is uncomfortable for them and often for taxpayers, to say they least.

Governments through the years, both NDP and Liberal, have been asked to take this on but so far that’s been greeted with dead silence. Anyone setting his/her own wages is always uncomfortable. That’s not to say they have been taking advantage and overdoing it. It’s just the optics.

During my term on city council a formula had been devised which saw Nanaimo council salaries place in the middle of those in other municipalities of similar size. It worked, but council still had to confirm any changes by bylaw.

However, when a council with considerable newcomers was elected it coincided with a higher-than-normal hike and the rookie councillors immediately tossed out the formula and passed a lower rate change with future raises loosely tied to the cost of living. What essentially followed was Nanaimo’s council pay level sank below that of similar councils, and then of course, it becomes a catchup game.

As much as MLAs and cabinet loathe the idea, it’s past time when they should take another look at something similar to the cost of living increases. After setting benchmarks based on community size levels, the salary changes would be a snap and should be without controversy.

I’m sure you would not get any opposition from sitting councils, it would be a monkey off their backs.