West Vancouver councillors argued and even accused each other of grandstanding and politicking over a motion to increase council pay to compensate for a new federal policy. Up until January this year, one-third of the Mayor and councillor’s salaries were non-taxable to allow for expenses that come with holding the job.
But the current federal policy takes away that benefit, which means the entire pay is now taxable. Several BC councils have voted to increase their salaries to make up for the loss, essentially taking from the local taxpayer what the federal government is taking from them.
In West Vancouver, that would require a 16 per cent increase in the Mayor’s compensation and a 12 per cent increase in compensation to councillors. First time councillors Marcus Wong and Sharon Thompson voted against the motion, arguing taxpayers shouldn’t be burdened with the increase that amounts to approximately $46,000 that would have to be taken from the taxpayers.
“You could hire a full-time employee with that money or part-time employees. I would be giving this to arts group and community groups, and I encourage you to do the same,” Wong said. He has support in Sharon Thompson, who said she saw her job as a privilege and there were better ways in which the money could be spent.
Councillor Cameron, however, disagreed and was critical of the two and said he found it frustrating when councilors play politics over compensation. He pointed that Wong and Thompson had just recently attended a conference in Quebec City, adding that he had not attended a Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) conference in the past seven-and-a-half years that he had been on council.
“I look forward to Wong and Thompson not submitting their $5,000 plus expense claims for going on a week-long junket to Quebec City, including staying in nice hotels and flights. I have never thought it was worthwhile to do for a community of $45,000. If Wong is going to lecture me on putting money back, I am assuming he won’t seek reimbursements for that,” he said.
Wong said that he wasn’t politicking, and in fact, would encourage all his fellow councillors to go to the conferences to build teamwork and hear from other municipalities on what is working and what isn’t.
Thompson retorted that she had paid for her own flight. “It’s a shame that you had to bring that up. If we did this efficiently, we could do this job in 25 hours a week. If you applied yourself and put your mind to it, I think you could carve out that time. It is not like we are not making nothing and there is a lot of f uncertainty, lot of questions out there and I am not comfortable with this,” she said.
Mayor Booth called for calm and reminded everyone that the increase wasn’t really an increase, but rather a net zero gain from a tax perspective. She added that council seat should be inclusive and open to a wide spectrum and not just be the domain of retired or independently wealthy people.
“We do love our community, but we are not martyrs and I don’t have time to shop and think about dinners, and have to pay for someone to walk my dog now because I am here at the office,” she said. Councilor Nora Gambioli was also supportive of the increase.
“If we don’t vote for this, this would mean a decrease in our pay when we are barely making something equitable. I think that in the future, citizens with knowledge, skills, and those with love for this community won’t run for office. So, we will attract people who are running for ulterior motives,” she said.
Councillor Bill Soprovich was also supportive, saying the councilors give their ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ every day to make the community a better place.
The council motion passed with Thompson and Wong opposed. This means the Mayor’s salary will increase from $103,162 to $119,668, and councillor’s salary from $41,265 to $46, 217.