Abbotsford politicians pay to be tied to residents’ wages

Council approves new policy that will see councillors wages set at 75% of average Abbotsford full-time worker

Abbotsford city hall

Abbotsford city hall

Pay hikes for Abbotsford’s municipal politicians will now only happen if theirconstituents’ wages also go up after council adopted a new remuneration policy Monday.

Council voted Monday to tie their pay to the average Abbotsford salary after being recommended to do so by a citizens’ working group tasked with looking at politicians’ wages. (Read the group’s report here.)

The move will see councillors paid three-quarters of the average salary for a full-time Abbotsford worker, with the mayor paid two-and-a-half times a councillor’s salary.

The changes will result in a pay bump for politicians, although council voted by a 4-3 margin to defer those increases until after the next election.

“If your voters prosper, you should increase your pay,” Douglas MacAdams, the chair of the four-person volunteer working group, told council. On the other hand, he said if Abbotsford residents see their pay stagnate or slump, the same should be reflected in their elected politicians’ wages.

“We are done with taxpayers being on one hand, and council and mayor being on the other hand.”

Previously, the salary of the politicians had been set, in part, by looking at surrounding municipalities of similar size.

The mayor had been making $95,200 for the last four years, with councillors earning $37,500.

Under the recommendations, councillors will see their salaries rise to $40,500 in 2017, with the mayor set to earn $101,250.

A consulting group had developed the previous city policy on politicians’ pay in 2011. That policy had set a base pay for mayor and council and tied it to increases in the cost of living. But council had declined to follow the policy and had deferred increasing their wages over the last two years, despite rises in the cost of living.

The working group said being a councillor requires a 30-hour work week – hence pay being set at 75 per cent of an average salary. While the group noted that it could be argued the job demands of being a councillor exceed the average job, they said in their report that any “extraordinary demands” are offset by the fact that a third of politicians’ pay is tax-free to account for expenses.

The mayor’s salary was determined after the group found that mayors often earn between 1.5 and 3.5 times the salary of councillors.

The report says Halifax and Vancouver also tie the pay of politicians there to that of residents.

All those around the council table Tuesday supported the new formula. (Couns. Les Barkman and Patricia Ross were absent.) But they differed on whether to implement the group’s recommendation to immediately increase pay for councillors and mayor in line with the 2011 policy, or to defer those changes until 2019, after voters elect the next council.

Couns. Dave Loewen, Moe Gill and Brenda Falk voted to implement the entire report, with the immediate pay increases.

Loewen noted that the report suggested council had been too hesitant to follow its own policies in the past, and deferring the increases would simply repeat the problem.

Gill added: “If we keep on deferring forward, it’s not going to be implemented.”

But Couns. Kelly Chahal, Ross Siemens and Sandy Blue voted to defer the increases, with Mayor Henry Braun breaking the tie. Braun noted that some had campaigned on not increasing their own salaries and said he would prefer for it to take effect when the next council is elected.