With a local unemployment rate just above 12 per cent and a private sector that continues to battle through a sluggish economy, this is not the time for Nanaimo city council to give itself a raise.
On Monday, local politicians voted in favour of a 24-per cent pay raise to meet a provincial median of similarly sized municipalities.
Spread over three years with a raise of at least eight per cent per year beginning in 2012, the bump in pay would reflect an average remuneration of what politicians in other centres are making.
But that’s not a good enough reason to put additional strain on taxpayers.
What’s more, very few, if any, Nanaimo residents will receive an eight-per cent raise for the next three years. Couple that with rising inflation and increasing job losses, and tolerance for a move like this will be limited at best by the electorate.
Currently, councillors earn $26,414 while the mayor earns $79,547.
There is no question most of our city councillors work hard. The mayor’s position is virtually a seven-day a week position and council has a large task in overseeing the city’s $145-million budget.
It’s a big responsibility, but municipal politics are – and always have been – a part-time job, and the pay should reflect that. Serving the community should be first and foremost on a politician’s priority list, not how much remuneration is offered.
Granted, council voted in the raise for the successful candidates of November’s municipal elections, which gives the next council an opportunity to change the raise or do away with it altogether.
Candidates in the next election would be wise to state that they aren’t in favour of a 24-per cent raise, because the people voting certainly won’t be in such an envious position.