This is why you shouldn’t freak out over Burnaby council pay raises

Chris Campbell

If there’s one thing that gets people riled up in relation to politicians is the subject of their remuneration.

Many taxpayers hate that politicians get paid anything, which is ridiculous. One letter writer to the NOW emailed about how the origins of civic politicians involved people volunteering to be mayors or aldermen (as they were called many years ago) out of a sense of civic duty.

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That is such an antiquated notion. Today, this is a job just like anything else.

Civic politicians work hard, make crucial decisions and deserve to be compensated for it.

What they make is a drop in the bucket out of annual budgets in the hundreds of millions, but that doesn’t stop people from getting upset about what they earn.

Now we have a situation in which the members of Burnaby city council could be voting themselves significant pay raises.

But don’t freak out. Don’t set your hair on fire. This isn’t outrageous.

A three-person council indemnity advisory committee was created to review a staff report that recommended raises for the city’s mayor and eight councillors. City staff recommended a raise of $8,900 for each councillor and $37,075 for Mayor Mike Hurley. They estimate the salary increases would cost the city an extra $110,000 a year.

This is the really important part.

The increases would offset the elimination of a tax break for local politicians. Before Jan. 1, 2019 mayors and councillors didn’t have to pay federal income tax on one-third of their income. 

Now they have to pay taxes on every dollar they make, resulting in a net loss in income.

“The increase would result in approximately the same net pay for all members of council as though the tax exemption for the non-accountable allowance was still applicable,” city staff wrote in a report. “The increase was calculated using 2018 income tax rates and Canada Pension Plan contribution rates, assuming that members of council had no other sources of income.”

The review panel held three meetings in March and April and ultimately agreed with city staff’s recommendations. 

Burnaby council will vote on the proposed raises at a future meeting.

I don’t have an issue with the increases.

What people should really be upset with is the fact that three Burnaby councillors – Paul McDonell, Colleen Jordan and Dan Johnston – all voted against slashing the fee-waiver program that allows them to golf for free.

A majority of council did the right thing and voted to cap the free golf to $1,500 per person – still a ridiculous amount considering these politicians are paid. Burnaby is the only Metro Vancouver city to have such a program. It's disgusting that the three councillors all voted against slashing their own perks.

I have no issue for proper pay for their work. Golf perks, however, are unacceptable.

Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44.

  • With additional reporting by Kelvin Gawley

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