Let’s get uncomfortable – Let’s talk about money

Let’s get uncomfortable – Let’s talk about money

Thank you to my collegue Kevin Townsend for his motion on Monday to establish a citizen lead task force to review remuneration for council, boards, agencies and commissions.

Paying people more money is an uncomfortable and usually controversial topic – especially when we are facing so many issues in our community like homelessness, addiction, increasing rents and inflation.

But does that mean we should be proud that our city councillor renumeration is in the bottom 10% of municipalities in Ontario? I don’t think so. I can’t think of any list where you’d proud to be in the bottom 10%. I’m certainly not saying we should be in the top 10% – but could we agree on somewhere in the middle?

For comparison here are some councillor’s salaries:

St. Catharines – $27,029

Niagara Region – $39,290 per year, with an additional $2000 paid to chairs of our Standing Committees.
Guelph – $51,327
Kingston – $45,000
Chatham – $36,900
Cambridge – $43,074

No one I know wanted or wants to be a city councillor because you’re looking for a payday win. Each of us believes we have something to offer our community, has a vision of making our community better and wants to help people.

I’m not begrudding of councillors who have a pension or a full time job with a guaranteed salary with benefits. Nor am I saying that because you have a full time job you will not do a good job as a part time councillor. Many do.

What I am saying is that our council does not reflect the diversity of our community and one of the reasons why is the renumeration.

I am incredibly fortunate to own my own business that allows me to have a flexible schedule that gives me the ability to meet with residents and businesses, go to meetings with staff, answer phone calls, emails and social media questions and attend events during what would be considered ‘regular’ business/working hours. This is not the reality for most.

Council isn’t (or shouldn’t be) an after 5 and on the weekend job. It’s a 7 days a week and all times of the day job. At least if you’re going to do it well.

If you are a person working in a restaurant, retail, factory, services – for you to take time off to go to meetings or help residents during ‘regular’ business hours, means taking time off (unpaid) to do your council work.

Our current remuneration does not reflect the reality of paying for childcare, transit or having to take unpaid time off of work. If we want to see an equitable, inclusive and diverse council, we need to give people the financial security to be able to participate.

We have so many incredible people in our community who have so much to offer, who dream of running for council – but are stopped by the financial implications it will have for them and their family.

I think the only way that we can work towards a more diverse council, a council that represents the community that we live in, is to look at the reality of remuneration.

I look forward to hearing the from the citizen lead task force and hope that their recommendation leads to a council that reflects the diversity of our community.