Compensating the compensators

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A recent conversation I conducted with my very attractive, always persuasive in-house accountant at The Bruce Mansions went a little like this:

Me: “It has come to my attention that I earn less than a sparrow stealing bird seed from a pigeon on my own feeder. What are you going to do about this?

She: “Well, I can shoot the pigeons, but that’ll cost you.”

Me: “How much?”

She: “About twice as much for buckshot as birdseed.”

Me: “What about setting up more feeders around the backyard?”

She: “Yup. . .That would work, if you want to attract more pigeons and, of course, spend more money on buckshot.”

Me: “So, what’s the solution? I’m out of money.”

She: “Have you ever considered running for Moncton City Council? I hear the birds there have just awarded themselves a massive raise in salaries and perks – to the tune of $100,000 this year. Of course, all things considered, clay pigeons and plastic, pink flamingos might be a worthier investment in downtown development.”

Me: “You had me at $100,000.”

I must have been snoozing – having just consumed the great news about OrganiGram’s and WestJet’s job-creation expectations, about an expansion to the planned downtown events centre – when this news report, courtesy of the CBC, passed across my screen:

“Currently, Moncton councillors earn $24,789.72, but that amount will increase to $33,494.53 on Jan. 1, 2017. The deputy mayor makes $28,539.72, which will jump to $37,244.53. The city’s next mayor will receive the largest pay increase, getting an increase of more than $14,000 that boosts the mayor’s salary to $83,736.33.”

All tallied, that amounts to a 20-35 per cent pay hike in a single year – at a time when middle-class salaries in this city (population: 70,000), province, region, and country have nudged upwards by mere fractions since 1981.

Is this egregious? Frankly, the optics could not be more embarrassing to a city that bills itself as a lean, mean, fighting municipal machine.

The City of Toronto, with a population approaching 4 million, pays its mayor, annually, $184,666. It pays its councillors an average of $110,000 a year. The hourly rates it maintains for councillor staffs hover between $15 and $47.

The Halifax Regional Municipality, with a population of about 400,000, will soon pay its mayor $163,000 a year and its councillors $74,000 apiece annually. (This, after that city council recently approved cutbacks in the salaries it approves for its members).

All of which only indicates that, compared with their counterparts in other urban centres in Canada, Moncton’s elected officials were making pretty decent change before they gave themselves dramatic raises just in time for the upcoming municipal election. Now, some of them even bloviate on the hard work they must sustain whilst prosecuting what are, officially, part-time jobs.

But let us entertain that these positions are part-time in name only; that they are, in fact, more full-time than those of us outside city hall are prepared to admit.

That’s fair enough. But can’t some mechanism be found to award hard-working councillors with regular, annual bumps in their compensation packages that actually track those of the people they purport to represent?

Must we forever endure these public-relations disasters in the halls of government?

As for me, my in-house accountant advises me to hold off four more years before running for mayor. By then, she says, the good citizens of Moncton might be all too willing to allow me to roll in their dough for a good, long stretch of cutting ribbons and talking out of both sides of my splendid mouth.

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