Editorial — Aug. 7, 2014

Staff ~ The Prince Albert Daily Herald
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Whether it’s Prince Albert city council, a Canadian senator or an Alberta premier, one thing is clear: The public (and media) is quick to pounce on hypocrisy.

At a time where the city’s elected officials are calling on city departments to tighten their bootstraps and find cuts wherever they’re able to, city council has consistently voted themselves pay increases.

Between 2011 and 2013, the city’s elected officials have indirectly approved an 18 per cent remuneration increase, it was revealed at Tuesday’s executive committee meeting.

During this timeframe, the average Saskatchewan resident saw their pay increase by 7.94 per cent.

But, there’s more!    

In March, the city’s elected officials decided it still wasn’t enough, with council unanimously voting in favour of additional pay increases to themselves, with no discussion.  

The mayor got his pay bumped by $4,810, bringing it to $88,710.

Councillors’ pay got bumped by an average of about $2,267.50, bringing their projected 2014 average to $35,766.90 (including most travel expenses).

As such, since 2011 (the last full year for the last batch of city councillors), city council pay has gone up by almost 27 per cent. The mayor’s pay has gone up by more than 15 per cent.

The final figures for 2014 won’t be known until next year, but these ballparks, as approved by council, paint a picture of hypocrisy.

The city’s elected officials base their pay increases on cabinet minister pay, with mayor and council receiving a percentage of what a cabinet minister makes (the mayor receiving a higher percentage).

When cabinet minister pay increases, the remuneration for mayor and council also increases, as per a city bylaw that handles this matter.

The intent is to “remove any of the conflict of interest from the process as far as councillors setting their own salary,” city finance director Joe Day clarified.

However, the Daily Herald feels comfortable in suggesting that city council has voted themselves pay increases on the grounds that the city’s elected officials can, at any time, amend this bylaw.

Which they should.

Pay increases (or -- gasp! -- decreases) should mirror the provincial average.

Politicians hate it when you draw direct parallels between expenditures, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do with some quick math.  

Consider for a moment the Kinsmen Water Park’s troubled waterslides. The city’s elected officials are only willing to invest $60,000 toward the slides’ $260,000 repair job.

Let’s grab this year’s $27,030 increase to the city council budget and last year’s $31,000 increase.  

Taking into account only last year and this year, increases over the past two budget years have cost taxpayers an additional $89,030 -- a significant chunk of waterslide repairs.

Slap a three-year bank loan on that project, and we could have had working waterslides this summer, at the same cost to taxpayers as city councillor/mayor pay increases.  

Play with these numbers during the city’s 2015 budget season (set to take place before the end of the year).

It’ll be interesting to see which expenditures they vote against.

It’ll also be interesting to see whether they follow the same pattern they always have and vote in favour of another hefty pay increase.

The annual city budget shows the public what city council’s priorities are ...

 

Prince Albert Daily Herald

Organizations: Daily Herald, Prince Albert

Geographic location: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Kinsmen Water Park

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