FOULDS: The pain of trying to peg pay

According to Statistics Canada’s annual employee wages by occupation survey, the average hourly wage across Canada, in all occupations, full- and part-time, was $27 in 2018.

For a full-time employee, assuming 40 hours per week, that equates to an annual salary of about $56,000 before taxes. Although their elected and appointed positions are officially classified as part-time work, the majority of Kamloops councillors will this year earn about the same as the average full-time employee in Canada. A Kamloops councillor is paid 40 per cent of the mayor’s wage, with the latter set to make about $100,000 this year.

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The top five councillor vote-getters in last October’s civic election — Arjun Singh, Kathy Sinclair, Mike O’Reilly, Dieter Dudy and Dale Bass — are automatically appointed to the Thompson-Nicola Regional Board as directors. With that comes an additional annual paycheque of $14,400, once the TNRD board ratifies a pay hike later this month. Those regional district councillors will also pocket $150 per meeting (and another $160 per meeting held during an emergency, such as with wildfires), a few more dollars for gas and some meals that are much better than the great unwashed would ever know.

Now, while the roles of elected councillors and elected/appointed regional district directors are, officially, part-time gigs, we know that, in reality, they are not.

Some civic politicians will work full-time hours attending various meetings, connecting with constituents and reporters, reading reams of correspondence and cutting a ribbon here and there on the rubber-chicken circuit. Those who do likely have the luxury of time as they do not hold a full-time job or own a business. Other civic politicians will not work full-time hours due to the simple fact they are too busy with life. By my count, of the eight councillors at Kamloops City Hall, six are significantly busy with day jobs/business ventures.

But it is safe to say they put in more hours than most of us would estimate.

With the above pay grids comes a change this year. Unlike years past, civic politicians this year and going forward will no longer be afforded a tax-free claim to one-third of their wages. It is a change implemented by the federal government and one that makes sense. Why should part-time politicians be given a perk not granted to others toiling daily to pay the bills?

It is that change that prompted the TNRD to review its pay structure and recommend the 26-member board vote on the proposed increases on March 14.

The board will in all likelihood approve the pay hikes, which compared to the district’s overall budget, is an insignificant total amount. But the optics are indeed significant, enough to prompt some directors to oppose the pending vote and to demand that their “no” vote be recorded (for the weird saga as to why votes are not recorded at TNRD meetings, click here). In percentage terms, the pending increases for various positions — 27%, 19%, 18% and 11% — are a bit eye-opening.

Joe Sixpack can be forgiven for asking why this wage increase is necessary (and, no, citing a tax-free perk that was removed is not justification).

Some political bodies set their own pay, others appoint an outside panel to determine wages. Some connect salary to what other political bodies make, while others simply tie increases to the annual cost of living index.
In almost all cases, the elected officials will be in the upper tier of income earners in Canada.

Regardless of how a political body arrives at salary levels, it will always lose in the court of public opinion, considering those writing the paycheques are increasingly stressed financially.
Twitter: @ChrisJFoulds

© Kamloops This Week


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