Kelowna's mayor, councillors have no concerns about their pay raise amid pandemic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna's mayor, councillors have no concerns about their pay raise amid pandemic

January 13, 2021 - 12:00 PM

Kelowna's mayor and councillors are accepting a small raise for this year, despite the pandemic and heavy criticism from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Pay increases for Kelowna's mayor and councillors are tied to the cost of inflation with automatic increases each year. The 2020 Consumer Price Index is expected to be published Jan. 20 and that increase will be added to their pay retroactively to Jan. 1. But so far, councillors aren't taking the criticism.

“We’re not getting a raise,” councillor Charlie Hodge told iNFOnews.ca. “It’s a cost of living increase.”

That’s standard for most employers, he said, noting it is “ridiculous” to even to bring it up or suggest it’s a raise.

“We think all levels of government should be taking a pay cut,” Kris Sims, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said. “Most of us in the private sector have had our salaries reduced, or lost our jobs entirely.”

She said Burnaby council took a 10 per cent pay cut last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and donated it to charity.

Many federal politicians in Canada also donated their pay increase to charities and other federal politicians, such as those in New Zealand, took 20 per cent pay cuts, she said.

Federal and municipal pay rates are totally different conversations, Coun. Ryan Donn said.

“Nobody does council for the money,” he said. “I would love to live in a city where a single parent could get onto council and actually be able to live their life and do council and do another job. That is almost impossible with how small the pay is. It’s set up for the affluent and the comfortable to be on council. That sets the stage for only the most comfortable people to be on council and, therefore, we lack some of that financial diversity around the table.”

Both Couns. Hodge and Donn were in council meetings much of Monday and until 11 p.m. last night, Jan. 12. They said they do a lot of reading, deal with calls and emails from constituents and spoke about the lack of sleep that can follow meetings like the one last night that dealt with big issues like the relocation of Costco and three high-rise towers approved for downtown Kelowna.

When asked what he will do with his raise, Donn answered that it will help pay for his gas going to and from council meetings and attending to other City business.

“I will accept the (Consumer Price Index) increase,” Donn said. “I think the job requires a lot more than it actually pays.”

Mayor Colin Basran sees no reason to change the policy.

"There are certainly people who are struggling financially through this pandemic but there are also people who have seen no change and there are probably people who are doing very well during this pandemic,"  Basran said. “Given the fact that council’s workload hasn’t decreased as a result of the pandemic – in fact, the job has probably got a lot harder, a lot more stressful, council’s working very hard to make sure our city is working at a high level and essential services are continued to be delivered. As a result of that, I don’t believe council should revisit the policy that was implemented by the council of the day nine years ago."

The increases are automatically set in a City bylaw that Sims said councillors should change.

While council could direct staff to bring in a bylaw to amend the existing one, that would take some time and would only be in effect as of the date of adoption and could not take back pay already earned as of Jan. 1, deputy city clerk Laura Bentley said.

In 2019, city councillors were paid $36,543.33. and Mayor Colin Basran was paid $107,525.22 before getting a cost of living adjustment last year.


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