North Cowichan council. (Citizen file)

North Cowichan council. (Citizen file)

Review of North Cowichan council members’ pay to be held this year

Staff had recommended review be held in 2025

A review to determine the pay for North Cowichan’s council members will likely be held this spring.

At a meeting of the municipality’s committee of the whole on Jan. 11, council members voted to reject a staff recommendation that the review be held in 2025, during the term of the next council.

In 2018, the previous council decided that the next review of council’s remuneration be conducted prior to the next municipal election in 2022, which will be held in October.

But in a COW meeting in December, council members decided to make no decision at that time, and the issue would be brought back to a future COW meeting early in 2022.

RELATED STORY: NOT A GOOD TIME TO DISCUSS PAY: NORTH COWICHAN COUNCIL

Currently, the mayor’s remuneration in North Cowichan is $77,854 a year, while councillors make $28,025.

Mayor Al Siebring said at the meeting on Jan. 11 that “kicking the issue down the field” would just mean that it would be left in the hands of the new council.

“Deferring difficult decisions doesn’t make them any easier and doesn’t necessarily mean that a better decision would be made,” he said.

“I firmly believe that the previous council was right in that they made a decision for this council to make the decision for the next council. I don’t care what the decision will be frankly and, at the end of the day, if we conclude we all deserve a pay cut, I’ll be fine with that. But let’s have this discussion now rather than putting this off and creating what will be [by 2025] a six-year gap in fixing this.”

Coun. Tek Manhas said the current remuneration for council members was set shortly after their federal tax credits were taken away when, in 2018, as part of the federal government’s budget at the time, elected members in Canada’s municipalities were required to pay taxes for the first time on the approximately 30 per cent of their salaries that had been tax-exempt.

RELATED STORY: SIEBRING CONCERNED ABOUT TAX CLAWBACK ON COUNCIL PAY

“The new compensation [for council members] that was established at the time saw a substantial increase in pay for councillors and the mayor, and was set according to a [municipality] our size as compared to other municipalities that were comparable,” Manhas said.

“Since then, council members have been receiving pay increases according to the consumer price index, which is an increase that a lot of businesses and people don’t even get. The federal government has set the CPI for 2022 at 2.4 per cent and I don’t know how many people will get that increase to their wages this year. It would be ridiculous for council members’ salaries to go over the CPI while businesses are shutting down and people are out of work.”

Coun. Kate Marsh said it’s not fair that the province keeps making locally elected politicians set their own compensation.

“I think, should we punt this issue down the road, the next council will feel the same discomfort we do,” she said.

“If we do decide to vote for a pay raise, I’ll only vote for it if it took effect at the beginning of the next term so we’re not giving ourselves a raise. But we should acknowledge to the community the reality of the costs and time this role involves. People should be compensated for the amount of time and stress that are put into this role.”

The motion to hold the review this April instead of in 2025 passed, with Coun. Rob Douglas and Manhas opposed.

The council compensation review will include comparisons of council pay in similar-sized communities with comparable operating budgets.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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municipal politics