System allows politicians to vote themselves a raise

At the very least, the optics aren’t ideal, even if they’re the only ones who can set remuneration for their positions.

Qualicum Beach councillors have one more vote to go (on Feb. 25) on an amended bylaw that would give themselves a hefty pay hike.

Now, wouldn’t we all like to do that?

“Hey, Bob. We’ve really been getting after it lately. How’s about we give ourselves a raise.”

In this case, the politicians will vote to increase the mayor’s salary to $46,000 from $37,500, and the four councillors to $34,500 from $19,625 (with increases tied to the Consumer Price Index.

In contrast, Parksville’s mayor and council (there are six councillors) receive $33,440 and $13,890, respectively.

Regional District of Nanaimo electoral area directors receive $34,000 in pay, while the chair receives $65,000.

Qualicum Beach Coun. Robert Filmer described the proposal as “raising (pay) from a pittance to a slightly larger pittance.”

Here’s the deal. We know it’s a tough job, with long hours and plenty of difficult decisions.

But surely, you know what you’re getting into. A little research can tell you how many hours and meetings and people you might be dealing with. And the wage was already out there publicly.

Voting yourself a pay raise shortly into a new term has to raise a few eyebrows.

The issue isn’t so much the increase. The pay for these jobs has always been absurdly low. Trying to attract more candidates, especially young people, is extremely difficult given the aforementioned hours and wages.

We need a wide range of candidates – men and women, young and old.

“At the rate we’re at now, I still have to work full-time,” said Filmer, the youngest councillor.

This, of course, leaves far less time for councillor duties. So therein lies the rub.

Coun. Teunis Westbroek (formerly the Town mayor) said a change to council remuneration was long overdue, as the bylaw hadn’t been looked at since 2011.

He said that, since then, the jobs of both mayor and councillor have become far more complex and time-consuming.

Fair enough. Raises are surely deserved. If you want good people, good representatives, you’re going to have to pay them.

But right after you’re elected probably isn’t the best time to be telling taxpayers you’ve decided to boost that pay. Then again, you’re going to get complaints no matter when you decide on a pay hike.

Coun. Adam Walker was the only member opposed to the motion for immediate increases, suggesting instead he felt the amendment should apply to the following term of council.

That seems like an equitable solution. Acknowledge the need for the increase and ensure your successors are more fairly compensated.

Without the iffy optics.

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