It’s an ill-thought-out argument, devoid of political astuteness.
Yet it’s raised nearly every time our elected representatives defend plans to rethink their own wages – always up, never down.
You know the line: we need sufficient remuneration to attract the right sort of candidates.
We hear it on occasion from our MPs (base salary $160,200), our MLAs (base salary $101,859) and our part-time civic officials (in White Rock, councillors get $26,580, the mayor $59,810).
In White Rock last week, council members – meeting as the city’s governance and legislation committee – rejected staff advice that calculated raises by comparing White Rock to three neighbouring small cities: Pitt Meadows, Port Moody and the City of Langley. (Population-wise, only Pitt Meadows is smaller, yet its 86.5-sq.-km area dwarfs White Rock’s 5.13 sq. km; wage-wise, only Langley pays more.)
Instead, politicians supported averaging the figures, only with much-larger Port Coquitlam, North Vancouver and West Vancouver added to the mix. Doing that would raise councillors’ salaries to $29,703 and the mayor’s to $79,143.
During discussions, elected officials did one thing right. At the urging of Mayor Wayne Baldwin, they agreed to delay any increase until after next year’s civic election. This at least gave a glimmer of thinking beyond their own pocketbooks.
Regardless, there’s something inherently flawed about basing council’s pay on neighbouring cities. Such logic creates an endless loop of wage bumps. (No doubt Pitt Meadows and Port Moody will eye White Rock in their next remuneration go-rounds.)
As for the often-heard argument that lower wages limit the number of qualified candidates for an admittedly difficult job, one should probably say that softly in the presence of the nine who ran – some on platforms of fiscal responsibility – in last fall’s civic byelection. Indeed, if one wants to see the attributes of those whom the current wages attract, one need only look around council chambers. Not a bad lot… on most matters.
Regardless, we call on White Rock politicians – none of whom we recall raising this issue prior to their own elections – to set the bar higher. Yes, change your wages. Lower them, if only by a bit. Make this tiny city’s elected officials the lowest-paid in the region, and lead by example.
Anything less leaves us wanting more.