It will now be more politically perilous for future Abbotsford politicians to try to supercharge their own salaries after a decision by council Monday.
Four years ago, council voted to link the pay of local politicians to the wages of Abbotsford workers. The idea, which was developed and endorsed by a group of prominent local citizens, was that politicians should prosper only when their voters do so.
The policy was to take effect in full in 2019. It sets a councillor’s wage at 75 per cent of the average Abbotsford worker’s salary and the mayor’s wage at 2.5 the amount of a councillor’s salary. Those sums would be calculated every five years, after a census is conducted. Between those years, it would be adjusted annually at the rate of inflation.
The policy came with one potential escape clause: every four years the city was to set up a new group that would advise council whether it could, or should, deviate from the scheme. Such a group could, if it saw fit, declare that the pay of Abbotsford’s politicians was being kept too low and that council should abandon the policy or revise the formula used to calculate salaries.
On Monday, though, council voted to remove the need for regular such groups. Any future council still has the power to adjust how their pay is determined. But future politicians will have to do so on their own accord.
Coun. Sandy Blue said the move would do more to prevent future councils from setting their own salaries.”
“Embedding future adjustments is important because I don’t think it’s appropriate for any future council to be voting on their own pay,” she said. “At the end of the day the voters will tell us if we have to re-look at this.”
Couns. Dave Loewen and Patricia Ross each opposed the move. While each said they support the policy at the present, Loewen said it might make it too politically difficult to revisit the pay scheme, should it be necessary.
“It’s awkward at best for council to initiate any sort of review of their own remuneration,” Loewen said.
And Ross noted that the workload for a councillor can expand, and has grown substantially in the past.
“The more a community grows, the more businesses grow, the more the workload increases accordingly.”
Both Ross and Loewen, though, say Abbotsford still has it right when it comes to setting politicians’ pay.
The greatest opposition to the change – and to how Abbotsford calculates its politicians’ salaries – may be coming from outside of the city.
Although the Fraser Valley Regional District, of which Abbotsford is a part, followed suit and adopted a similar policy, few others have done so. Many review salaries periodically to see if they measure up with neighbouring communities. If a municipality lags behind, staff frequently recommend salary bumps for politicians. That, then, leaves other municipalities at the bottom of a comparative pay scale, triggering raises for politicians there.
Mayor Henry Braun said the mayors of other municipalities have suggested that Abbotsford’s policy is stopping them from getting pay bumps. Braun’s salary of about $110,000 puts him well-down the list of B.C.’s highest mayoral earners, despite the city being the fourth-most-populace in the province, according to the CBC.
“I have had a lot of discussions with other mayors about this and some of them have said we need to change it because then my salary is hindering their salary increases,” Braun told council Monday. “I said I think it’s a great policy.”
Braun did not identify the mayors at council, and declined to identify them in an email to The News.
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