Taxpayers in the Cowichan Valley Regional District are being offered an early April Fools’ joke – regional district electoral area directors are in the process of giving themselves a more than 30 per cent raise.
Sadly, its no joke, …starting April 1 their salaries will jump by more than $11,000 per year when they ratify their decision at the next formal regional board meeting. This will bring their annual remuneration to around $43,000 on average.
The directors have passed a motion put by Skutz Falls director Ian Morrison to increase the salaries at an total annual cost to taxpayers of about $100,000, taken this year from reserve funds. Future payments will require either redirecting funds from other categories or increasing taxes.
This all took place last Wednesday at a meeting of the little known Director Services Select Committee. Part of the agenda dealt with an extensive report from the Union of BC Municipalities on remuneration for elected officials.
My personal view is that local governance is becoming more complicated and time-consuming; sometimes simply as a reflection of our changing times, but sometimes out of jurisdiction creep as local politicians wonder into policy areas beyond their powers and authority.
Is elected local governance becoming a full-time job? I don’t think so, but for some it is becoming the primary source of income, and these folks apparently want a topping up to enable them to devote their time to their avocation.
The public will justifiably be horrified at a 30 per cent wage increase, especially with it arriving with no advance notice or justification. Who else in the community can simply vote themselves a 30 per cent catch up?
Politician salaries are always a touchy subject, and at some levels, governments have handed off the responsibility to an arms-length independent body to recommend salaries. In other cases, especially with local governments, politicians often opt for smaller incremental increases every year or so to soften the blow.
In this case its a whopping 30 per cent in the form of catch up!
Are their new salaries too high? I tend to think so, but this is a subjective area of policy and will be subject to general conditions in the area, and attitudes of voters.
Coming as it is in the middle of a declaration of a COVID-19 emergency is horrible timing as everyone’s attention is elsewhere.
With all the social distancing we are being asked to practice, how could the public safely attend the next regional board meeting to express their displeasure?
Partick Hrushowy is a forty-five year veteran of journalism and the communications field and he is the Editor of the Cowichan Post.