Speaking of Council Pay

Yesterday I watched the video of the discussion of Council remuneration at Monday’s Council meeting.


I then checked the reports on Monday’s agenda for some background information on the subject. There was no report on the historical methodology or amount of Council remuneration as background to this new scheme for re- setting Council’s pay scale. In the following I discuss on the pay of Council excepting that of the Mayor as that position has always been considered full time. The other eight Council positions have been considered part time.

In the absence of background material on the subject in the agenda report I undertook to determine the 2018 pay for our Council members by examining the City’s 2018 Statement of Financial Information (SOFI), the last official record of Council pay. In 2018 our eight Councillors averaged remuneration of $37,508 compared to a 2018 average Nanaimo income in 2018 of $36,621 according to the information found at http://www.investnanaimo.com , i.e. already slightly more than the Nanaimo average income. But seven of our eight Councillors also automatically sit on the Board of the Regional District of Nanaimo. For this task these seven Councillors, usually selected by the number of votes they received in the last municipal election, average an additional $17,123. Bringing Council pay for those seven to $54, 632, leading to a nearly 150% lead on the average Nanaimo income, with only one Councillor left just slightly ahead of the Nanaimo average.  What this boils down to is a question of whether the job is part time, as it has always been considered, or full time which some Councillors would like to assert. And this boils down to a question of the job description: In brief this, from Section 115 of the Community Charter, the job is:

“115 Every council member has the following responsibilities:
(a) to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality and its community;
(b) to contribute to the development and evaluation of the policies and programs of the municipality respecting its services and other activities;
(c) to participate in council meetings, committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which the member is appointed;
(d) to carry out other duties assigned by the council;
(e) to carry out other duties assigned under this or any other Act.”

In short, the extent of the job is largely self-imposed as defined by subsections c, and d.  This gives rise to the question of the efficiency with which these responsibilities are carried out. The efficiency and effectiveness of a Councils use of; “committee meetings and meetings of other bodies to which the member is appointed” and “other duties assigned by the council” is nebulous but has been richly engrossed by Council’s controlling establishment of committees, task forces, enabling brain trusts etc. In short, rather than listening to the public’s complaints and suggestions directly at open meetings, they have chosen to try to channel them and in so doing have willingly increased their own work load. As always in such cases it is necessary to watch our watchers… Council is a Board supervising the work of Staff in accordance with the bylaws which they have established. Staff is at the tiller of the Ship of State in its routine progress. Rather it is the Council which sets its goals, measures progress and corrects navigation instructions when conditions require.

I greatly fear that the approach to Council pay which has been put forward is not only vague but dangerous as well as unnecessary. It continues to avoid direct public interaction in favour of time consuming committees. It comes to mind that perhaps the most significant influence on Council emanates from the Chamber of Commerce, not from any City Committee.

I must add that It was breathtaking to hear some Councillor’s who knew, or should have known, what their remuneration would be when they ran for office, now bemoan their need for more income without simultaneously giving due consideration of the ways in which they could reduce their time commitment while remaining effective.

Dec. 18, 2019