Opinion: Why one Victoria councillor says the self-appointed pay raise is ‘outrageous’

Opinion: Why one Victoria councillor says the self-appointed pay raise is 'outrageous'
Photo credit: Nicholas Pescod
Victoria city hall is pictured.

Last week, by a vote of 5 to 3, Victoria City Council passed a motion to increase the base remuneration of City Councillors by 25 per cent. I want to say at the outset that I am opposed to this salary increase and I was one of three City Council members to vote against it.

The issue of City Councillor compensation is a complicated one and requires a more detailed analysis than I am able to give here.

Questions that should be addressed before determining compensation levels include: what is the workload of Councillors and does compensation reflect the hours worked? Are compensation levels sufficient to attract strong candidates? Should Councillors be allowed to have other sources of income? Do compensation levels of Victoria Councillors compare to their counterparts in similar-sized cities in B.C.?

Here, I will not delve into these questions. Rather, I will explain why this self-dealing salary increase would be wrong on many levels. To do this, I will first describe what a 25 per cent increase would mean for Councillor take-home pay and explain how this motion came about.

How are Victoria City Councillors compensated?

The new remuneration levels for City Councillors would range from $65,525 to $99,227. Remuneration varies among Councillors because of different committee and board appointments. For example, CRD Board membership brings an additional $30,262 to $33,702 to three Councillors and the Mayor.

The Mayor’s tax-payer funded remuneration of over $170,000 includes payments from: the City ($131,050), the CRD ($33,702), and BC Transit (estimated to be $8,000 to $10,000).

In my estimation, after being on Council for 16 months, the standard Council workload would be about 25 hours per week for 40-45 weeks. For CRD Directors, the time commitment is greater. And for the Mayor, significantly greater.

Members of Council submit annual financial disclosure statements in January to comply with the BC Financial Disclosure Act. Review of these documents indicates that only two Councillors, myself and Councillor Caradonna, are not affiliated with a business or external organization from which we receive remuneration.

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Is the increase in compensation justified?

The rationale for the compensation increase was a consultant’s report commissioned in 2023. The consultant’s report did NOT provide an analysis that would suggest the need for a significant change to the basic remuneration for Council members. The report did NOT consider the effect of additional remuneration for cities having a dual layer of governance. For example, three Councillors receive a 50 per cent income boost over the City’s base remuneration through appointments to the CRD.

In my opinion, an increase in City Councillor compensation in addition to the CPI annual increase is not warranted. This salary increase would come on the heels of significant reductions to public input at Council meetings, a change that reduces Councillor workloads.

This Council spends an inordinate amount of time on vanity projects that have little to do with safe streets, liveable neighbourhoods or wise use of taxpayer dollars. If Councillors abandoned their personal projects and focussed on the real issues facing Victorians, we could make real progress on the many issues that bedevil our city.

The five Councillors who supported this motion feel that they work long hours and should be paid for it. Too much of City Councillors’ time duplicates the work of City staff. We have competent and hardworking staff at City Hall. They do not need micro-managing by City Councillors.

How was this motion passed?

This motion was brought before City Council without the review and scrutiny normally given to other motions. There have been very few motions in my time as a City Councillor where an issue comes before Council without prior notice and without time for analysis and review. I was unaware that a group of City Councillors was planning to bring this motion forward for a vote. This is wrong.

This motion and the tactics used to hurriedly approve it without respecting the need for other Councillors or the general public to have the opportunity for fulsome consideration do not reflect the values of fiscal prudence, transparency, or good governance.

Like many of the people I represent, I can always use the extra money. But this self-dealing salary increase is so outrageous in the face of the difficulties faced by Victorians, that I cannot accept it. I will be redirecting my salary increase to charitable organizations within the City of Victoria that are committed to improving the quality of life of Victorians.

And I urge the Mayor, Marianne Alto, to stop the wink and nod to the five Councillors behind this motion and join me in speaking out against it.

READ PREVIOUS: Victoria council remains under fire five days after pay raise vote

Marg Gardiner is a Victoria city councillor

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