Who are politicians supposed to represent – the people who vote them in or the employees at City Hall?
That should be an easy answer – they should be looking out for the voters and taxpayers who elect them.
One of the areas that we would hope city councillors always have our best interest at heart is our tax dollars and how they get spent. A big expenditure is paying public-sector employees. When negotiating contracts with city unions, municipal councils must prioritize getting the best deal possible for taxpayers.
But what if the interests of the mayor and councillors are aligned with the unions and not with taxpayers? What if the councillors get a bit more money every time they hand the unions a raise?
Well, that’s how it works in the City of North Vancouver.
This week, the City of North Vancouver council voted to give themselves a pay raise of 1.33%. They reportedly did it quickly and without any debate during this week’s council meeting.
Of course, none of them ran in the 2014 election on a platform of promising to hike their own pay.
What makes this story interesting – besides it being outrageous that councillors would make giving themselves a raise a top post-election priority – is the way council calculated their raise.
Back in 2012, the city approved a new policy that tied council wages to a formula based on the wage increases of North Vancouver city workers, firefighters and inflation.
This means that if the firefighters or city workers get a raise, so do the mayor and council.
And who, may you ask, negotiates with the unions regarding their compensation? City council, that’s who.
It’s a backwards system. Instead of being incentivized to hold the line on pay hikes for government employees, council is incentivized to do the exact opposite because it results in a raise for them.
North Vancouver is not alone – formulas that determine municipal politicians’ pay exist in other jurisdictions in B.C. A formula based on the pay of other Metro Vancouver mayors which is used by Pitt Meadows city council resulted in a 7% pay raise in 2013. In fact, the formula used in Pitt Meadows is so flawed, it has resulted in a staggering 50% pay increase for local politicians there since 2008.
City councils should be standing up for taxpayers. Pay-scale formulas that operate in favour of the unions and city workers, or result in unjustified pay bumps for politicians, should be scrapped.