Local municipal watchdogs say Victoria city councillors are approaching things backwards when it comes to their salaries.
In an online survey regarding the 2020 city budget, councillors posed a question asking the public to support a 55 per cent salary increase for councillors in order to meet the median income of a city employee. This would bring their salaries up from around $43,000 plus benefits, to $70,100.
The Grumpy Taxpayer$, however think councillors should see a five per cent reduction in order to match the median total income of the Metropolitan Area of Victoria in 2017, which sat at $40,500.
“I think this request is stunningly insensitive to the average worker out there trying to make a living, or the people that are increasingly striking on the strike line,” said Stan Bartlett, chair of the Grumpy Taxpayer$. “Quite frankly it’s a goofy and boneheaded move that’s unacceptable.”
Many councillors also sit as members of other boards with salaries, including on the Capital Regional District (CRD) board, and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. Through these roles, councillors also receive payment well as payment for travel, per diems, and when they take on additional roles (such as the acting mayor).
“It sends out a dreadful message to the rest of the municipalities in the region,” Bartlett said. “In total there are around 93 politicians out there that need to be paid and you can be sure they’ll line up for major pay hikes if they see a major raise.”
Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt told Black Press Media that the request for a raise comes forward after a freeze on raises since 2008.
“It’s impossible to have other ordinary outside employment,” he said, adding that he’s in the role from 40-50 hours per week. “We have daytime meetings, emails, participate in local events, and deal with communications arising.”
In a release, the Grumpy Taxpayer$ argued that if councillors felt their workload was too much, they could reduce their scope of reach. The councillor position is provincially defined as a part-time service to the public.
“Maybe council is too involved in the micro managing of the city and are removing accountability from the professional staff who were hired for that purpose,” the release reads. “If the workload is too much, maybe council should focus on core responsibilities instead of wandering aimlessly to issues outside their mandate and jurisdiction.”
The 2020 budget survey is available online at victoria.ca until Nov. 24.