An advertisement placed in The NEWS (Oct. 23) on behalf of mayoralty candidate Denyse Widderfield caught my attention.
The ad, captioned “Think Before You Vote,” noted the increase in the mayor of Qualicum Beach’s salary from $16,600 to $31,300 over the past 19 years. The ad also states that the comparable salary for the mayor of Port Alberni, a community with twice the population, is $30,456.
Being intrigued by this information, I carried out some online research. According to the Port Alberni Times, the Port Alberni council voted in January, 2014, to increase the mayor’s salary to $38,450.
In terms of comparisons with other communities, it might be of interest to note that salaries for the mayors of comparable communities in British Columbia range between $35,000 and $65,000. The salary for the mayor of Qualicum Beach would seem to be at the low end of this range.
The ad is not clear as to what policy position the candidate would take on this question. Would the candidate, if successful, put forward a motion to council to reduce the mayor’s salary? Would the motion extend to the councillors’ salaries as well? Or would the candidate decline to accept the salary? As editor John Harding’s editorial in the same edition suggests, candidates should provide specific answers to such questions.
Finally, and most importantly, what is the issue that is being addressed? A number of municipalities have recently considered the importance of attracting younger candidates, those who have full-time jobs or growing businesses, who find it difficult to run for public office because their family incomes would be affected. Being a councillor, let alone a mayor, is a seven-day-a-week, on-call position.
These roles require patience, a willingness to research and understand complex issues and an ability to undergo critical comments in the media. All candidates should be appreciated for being prepared to take on such responsibilities. It is not clear that reducing the salaries of any members of council would encourage more citizens to put their names forward.
The question of appropriate salaries for our elected municipal representatives is worthy of discussion, but let’s do it with the correct information and in the right context.
David JamesQualicum Beach