Abbotsford council pay rises – for now

New wage system leads to 10% wage hike for city’s politicians, but pay cut could loom

Abbotsford’s municipal politicians got a substantial raise last year as the city moved to a new council pay scheme, but it’s likely to be their last wage hike in a long time.

Total pay for the city’s mayor and eight councillors rose by nearly 10 per cent, to $488,057 in 2019, according to the city’s recently released Statement of Financial Information.

Mayor Henry Braun made $122,379 while councillors made between $45,000 and $47,000 in remuneration, depending on duties performed. That’s up from $110,875 for Braun and around $42,000 for most councillors the prior year.

The increase came because the city’s remuneration policy finally took effect, linking politicians’ pay to the wages of residents. The new pay scheme sees councillors make three-quarters of an average full-time workers salary, and the mayor make 2.5 times the salary of a councillor.

In the years to come, councillors pay will be adjusted based on inflation until wage information from the 2021 census is released. If those census figures – which may not be available until 2023 – show wages increase, councillors will see their pay bumped.

Earlier this year, council voted to remove an automatic citizens review of the policy that would have made it easier for the pay scheme to be revised and for council wages to be amended to mirror those of other municipalities. Most other jurisdictions continue to set politician pay based on what councillors and mayors make in other jurisdictions – critics say such methods lead to an escalator effect whereby everytime one set of politicians vote to raise their own pay, it provides justification for those who are comparatively less well-paid to follow suit.

Mayor Henry Braun said at a council meeting earlier this year that he had heard from other mayors who suggest that his comparatively low pay was compromising their ability to justify giving themselves larger raises.

While Braun and Coun. Ross Siemens have suggested that the pandemic-caused recession may see them take a pay cut in the near future. Whether that transpires will depend on the speed and scale of the economic recovery and how Statistics Canada defines a full-time full-year worker in a year in which fewer people are working 100 per cent of their normal hours and many have been forced out of work temporarily.

RELATED: Abbotsford’s politician pay scheme unloved by some other raise-seeking mayors, Braun says

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