Let’s talk raises…again

Niagara politicians look to give themselves a pay raise: Committee created to study the hot potato issue.

SOME local politicians hope so…and here we go again.

Is a 1.5% increase much more reasonable than the other increases that have been recommended (and taken) since the beginning of this term? Yes.

I will still be voting against it.

Let’s be EXTREMELY clear about the $5,000+ increase that we already received. It did NOT “make [regional councillors] whole.” That is flat out wrong.

The 1/3 tax-free status that local politicians used to benefit from was an Expense Allowance. The federal government previously implemented that benefit to the income of local politicians as recognition that they would incur expenses in their role and made an effort to make it not as costly. But it was ALWAYS an Expense Allowance.

In the case of lower-tier municipalities, most (maybe all?) of them do not have expense accounts. They cannot charge mileage to meetings and local events. They cannot charge for lunches or coffees or dinners they have with constituents. They cannot charge cell phone bills and office supplies. And so on.

In the case of Regional Councillors, very healthy expense accounts have long been in place. Regional Councillors were never losing anything from their salary for being a Regional Councillor. So, taking that $5,000+ increase to gross remuneration (it works out to about $3,600 net) was NOT about making anyone whole.

Furthermore, at least twice now, when discussions about hiring for important staff roles have come up (i.e., mental health workers with respect to reducing suicide rates and a staff resource to address racism, homophobia, and all other forms of discrimination), many of these same councillors have suggested this work be done on the backs of volunteers. As if volunteers aren’t already doing this work and as if those same volunteers might not be burning out and as if we (as a Region) shouldn’t be taking a leadership role and putting appropriate resources behind such initiatives.

The role of a Regional Councillor is (on average) a 20-hour a week job. How do I know this? Save for attending as many events as my colleagues do (because I’m a single mom who enjoys time with her children and I work a part-time job and voluntarily coach at and run a non-profit organization), I work just as hard as any of them do. I read everything (nearly 1,000 pages and often more) per month. I research various issues. I sit on several committees. I call/e-mail/meet with constituents. And so on. And I still have time to work my part-time job, run the non-profit, and spend time with my children…and sleep.

When we are wrestling with budgets that past Councils have not adequately resourced and we have homelessness and opioid crises in our communities, we do not need another raise.

We never should have received the first one.

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