City council: rewarding inefficiency

City council’s pay was in the news recently — city councillors will receive a whopping $9,000 annual raise, moving their salaries to roughly $80,000 a year.

Communicating with the people who elected you has always been part of the job. Does this really merit a paycheque increase for our Mayor and Council?

Communicating with the people who elected you has always been part of the job. Vancouver City Councillors gave themselves a raise for taking longer to do the same work — if only the rest of us were this lucky.

Allowing people to give themselves a raise for taking longer to do the same job doesn’t make much sense.

Remember, this raise was approved by the councillors themselves. When was the last time you got to decide the amount of your own pay raise?

Folks who know my politics are aware of the fact that I’m no fan of Gordon Campbell. He was a very right wing premier and, before that, defeated my hero Harry Rankin in the 1986 mayoral election.

However, even Gordon Campbell did some good things. In one such initiative during his term as Vancouver’s mayor, he brought in a policy whereby city council salaries were tied to the salary of the average Vancouver worker. In doing this, Gordon Campbell made a public statement about social inequality and I applaud him for it. The current city council seems to be making a different public statement – the exact meaning of this I will leave to the reader. If we really are serious about addressing income inequality we should be tying as many occupational salaries as possible to the average as we can. Every time we do so we chip away at income inequality.

On another point, every time city councils — including Vancouver’s — debate the need for a pay raise, they always argue that the job is taking much more time than it used to. This all reminds me of a pre-Campbell incident when city council was debating a pay raise for itself. This was many years ago when Harry Rankin was on council. One of the arguments put forward by a number of the NPA councillors was the fact that apparently city councillors were spending much more time on council business than they had been previously and, therefore, they deserved a commensurate pay raise.

Harry stood up and quickly demolished this argument. He pointed out that if a factory worker came to the boss and said it was now taking twice as long to do her or his job, the boss would not asap double the workers salary but almost certainly terminate the worker for lack of efficiency. Needless to say, Harry voted against the pay raise.

One more thought that occurs to me. Perhaps a much more relevant indicator for determining salary levels of city councillors would be citizen satisfaction with council’s willingness and interest in listening to neighbourhoods, the folks the councillors work for! Every time Vision Vancouver votes in favour of a tower over the wishes of the citizens, councillor salaries would be automatically reduced by 5 per cent. Very quickly we would eliminate councillor salaries entirely!

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