Keremeos elected officials faced the issue of council and mayoral remuneration at the October 7 regular meeting.
Council had held off discussion on an increase for themselves last year, but found themselves facing the prospect of falling behind, when comparing their remuneration with those of comparably sized communities in the province.
In the end, council agreed to a two per cent increase – amounting to an additional cost of $710 annually to the village – a decision that seems reasonable, based on current economic conditions.
What bothers us about the process – and what doesn’t seem reasonable – is the legislation that allows politicians to vote their own remuneration increases.
The Community Charter has provisions that normally prevents council members from voting on issues in which they have a pecuniary interest.. However, s104(1)( c) of the Charter specifically exempts conflict of interest provisions if the “matter relates to remuneration, expenses or benefits payable to one or more council members in relation to their duties as council members.” Similarly provincial MLAs and federal MPs vote on their own remuneration and benefit packages.
While it is true that in the case of all three levels of government (local, provincial and federal) the politicians have to answer to their electorate for the decisions they have made at the ballot box, we wonder at the fairness of this policy, because, let’s face it – few people are able to maintain objectivity when it comes to measuring their own worth.
We feel a better system would be a process by which council would have to take their remunerative decisions directly to the public on an annual basis. There could be a designated regular meeting of council, in the fall just before budget deliberations, where council would present their stipend wishes to the gallery. Members of those attending would then vote on council’s proposal.
Given the current state of interest in daily politics, locally and at higher levels, this policy would not likely change outcomes in many cases – but it would be fairer and it would help bring more accountablility to a process that at present, doesn’t really have much.