At a recent Regular Council meeting, Doug Wittich pitched a pay increase to elected officials in his delegation (presentations to Council). Wittich is a member of the the Sooke’s informal economic development group (EDG). See Delegation Information. In spite of this public-driven initiative, a gift horse really, Council waffled in their response.
One of the reasons for Wittich believed a pay increase was in order was because of a new Federal Tax law that took effect this month, January 2019, meaning their take-home pay is actually less this year than it was in previous years. Some municipalities have compensated for this decrease in pay with near equivalent remuneration increases. Sooke did not. Another reason was to reflect the value of their contribution to the community. A third was to entice a bigger pool of qualified candidates to run.
According to Wittich, the remuneration of elected officials in Sooke impacts a person’s decision to run for Council in the first place. Wittich said they as the EDG met with all the candidates who ran for election to get their feedback and their input.
A paraphrase of what Wittich said: You need a fair remuneration. It’s a job. You give up a lot of your personal time and you have to take time off work. You give up family time to make decisions on behalf of the community. You are not voting on just your stipend but voting to ensure fairness for the person sitting next to you, and to whoever may be sitting in those chairs in the future. People will not run for council if the remuneration is not fair.
Wittach noted that there has been no increase in ten years, and proposed an automatic policy with a cost-of-living increase built in.
Paraphrased: A pay increase is not about you but about creating healthy governance now and in the future.
The opportunity existed for Council to finally address their remuneration. In 2018, Sooke was at the low end of the pay spectrum (see Table 1 below), with a consider margin from other similar sized municipalities. At a Candidate’s Information Session during the recent election, candidates were told that to be effective, elected officials would be expected to put in about 60 hours a week. At least one local business operator dropped from the race at that jaw-dropping revelation. When council discussed their Council Remuneration, their discomfort discussing the matter was palpable.
Councillor Parkinson noted that last year’s report was received and filed. She also mentioned that an earlier remuneration committee report, from 2008, also just sat there. In an effort to resuscitate past efforts, Parkinson proposed that a public committee be struck to address this, using the terms of reference from the 2008 group. It would consist of up to five members, none of them the elected officials. Last time, the committee had a three month window. As a part of her motion, Parkinson proposed that an updated copy will be brought forward at the Jan 28 Council meeting.
Councillor Logins seemed frustrated. “How many reports do we need before we call it?”she asked.
Councillor McMath shared the frustration, noting how much time participating in Council actually consumed, which included time away from her own family and time away from income earning opportunities.
The motion made by Parkinson to strike a committee failed, with Councillors Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath and Tony St-Pierre voting against it.
In spite of their frustration and objections, neither Logins nor McMath proposed an alternative motion. Without another motion, Council’s only other option would be to receive the report, which would have the same results of attempt to address their remuneration in 2018 (ie, it would get “filed” and probably never again see the light of day).
To avoid this fate, Council opted to defer receipt of the report until the next staff meeting. Additional information would be included at that time.
- Opinion: After a 10 year pay freeze, an increase for municipal politicians is long overdue
- Sooke’s elected officials’ remuneration stays the same, CAO ranges magnificently.
Table 1: Annual breakdown 2016 of BC Districts of similar size
Present: Mayor Maja Tait, and Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Ebony Logins, Megan McMath, Brenda Parkinson, and Tony St-Pierre
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Also covered at the January 14 2019 Council meeting:
- Last ditch effort to scrap temporary use permits: Transcript of Lewer’s presentation
- Sooke Council to champion expanded advertising options at AVICC
- Council waffles on addressing remuneration, frozen for more than a decade
- Sooke Lions present Musical Ride stats and plaque to Council
- Sookarama: Local Lions initiate Sooke-centric business trade show
- Sooke seals the deal, allows temporary use permits in Gateway area
- Nine Sooke employees recognized for length of dedicated service
- Council did not support the removal of 7166 West Coast Road from the ALR
- Sooke settles on two-seater Timberwolf toilets at John Phillips Memorial Park