A Bashaw town councillor’s idea to examine a committee of community members to advise on how much money councillors get paid was defeated by a 1 to 3 vote. The notice of motion was presented at the Feb. 5 regular meeting of council.

Coun. Kyle McIntosh presented his idea for council pay in a notice of motion, essentially laying out his case for a committee of community members who’d meet and discuss what pay raises, if any, elected town councillors should receive. 

Technically, the notice of motion if passed would have directed town staff to draft a frame of reference for this project.

In his notice of motion McIntosh suggested the pay committee be comprised of three people excluding current town councillors or anyone declared under pecuniary interest statutes, a timeline for implementation that allows council to make an informed decision prior to the Jan. 1 campaign period, inclusion of external market to be surveyed based on size, locality, industry or other such relevant measures and descriptions of duties, powers, meeting schedules, review or other such measures the chief administrative officer (CAO) deems necessary.

Readers should note when the notice of motion refers to the campaign beginning on Jan. 1, this refers to changes the provincial government made to municipal elections; previously, campaigns were only a month long but now begin on the first day of the year in which an election is scheduled to take place.

During discussion McIntosh clarified a bit about his intent and goals. 

McIntosh stated a municipal election year is approaching and he sees mayor and council as somewhat unique because they get to decide on their own pay rates using other people’s money.

He pointed out he couldn’t recall the current council approving any pay hikes for themselves.

However, McIntosh stated he felt uncomfortable having the ability and authority to do so. He also stated municipal councillor pay shouldn’t be hiked during a term but rather increased before the election so the public, including candidates, know how much they’ll be paid to act as a councillor for the next four years.

His proposal included forming a committee of Bashaw residents to determine what town councillors should be paid. Noting that different municipalities approach councillor pay in different ways, McIntosh pointed out factors such as workload and meeting length could be included in the committee’s decision.

Coun. Jackie Northey asked for clarity on who would be eligible for the committee. McIntosh responded town residents only as it may be inappropriate for a county resident for example to decide what town councillors are paid.

Northey asked how much work drafting a frame of reference for this proposal would be. McIntosh responded that it would require town staff time but he himself would be willing to write the frame of reference if council wished.

Coun. Bryan Gust observed the committee would be advisory only and its advice would be non-binding. Gust also noted he’s been on four town councils and all four were “very conservative” when it came to giving themselves pay hikes; Gust noted he looked at serving as a town councillor almost as a volunteer role with the council pay as more of an honorarium in return.

Gust added he didn’t see councillors approving their own pay as a problem for the councils he served on.

Mayor Rob McDonald stated if councillors approve a pay hike for themselves they have to be able to justify that decision to the public while a committee working on its own wouldn’t help councillors do that.

CAO Theresa Fuller confirmed that if councillors approved this notice of motion and directed her to draft a frame of reference, it would take staff time and other work may have to be bumped.

Councillors defeated the motion by a 1 to 3 vote, McIntosh the lone supporter.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 15, 2024 at 09:22

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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