This week, council will be asked to vote on a motion to consider whether or not city councillors should accept a 2.5 percent cost of living increase to their annual salaries.
Some will argue that councilllors should take a symbolic measure to freeze their salaries in order to send a message to the bureaucracy and unions- we’re asking them to make concessions this year. Others will say that Toronto councillors make far less than their counterparts in neighbouring municipalities, work long hours, sacrifice time with family and a reasonable salary is needed to attract the best and brightest into politics.
Along with how politically charged this debate seems to be, there’s something about the principle of city councillors voting on their own salaries that disturbs me.
Councillors must declare an interest on votes regarding salaries of union members if they have a sibling or spouse in that union. Also, if a member of council has a stake in a company that has answered a City tender, that too would most likely create a conflict of interest. Therefore, why wouldn’t a member of council have a natural interest in their own salary? Is that not the most direct pecuniary interest one could have?
Every four years on election day, the public delegates authority to council to make civic policy decisions for them. However, I submit that the question of what is appropriate remuneration for councillors should be one that is asked of the people who hire them. In good conscience, I don’t believe most people, including councillors, can be fully objective when it comes to decisions affecting their own livelihood and that of their families.
Therefore, at the next council meeting, I’ll be moving a motion to explore delegating this decision to an objective group of citizens who do not have the same vested financial and political interests as a member of council has regarding councillor remuneration.
If you have an opinion on this matter, please send me an email to email@example.com
Please review the motion below I’ve submitted for the March 2011 council meeting.
Independent body to set councillor remuneration motion
That Council request a report from the City Manager in consultation with the City Solicitor and City Clerk addressing options for appointing an independent body to set councillor remuneration including;
• the composition and mandate of such a body and how these options compare to the status quo.
• whether the City of Toronto Act, 2006 prohibits Council from delegating the power to set councillor remuneration to a body established by it
• a review of other relevant policies
• practices implemented by other jurisdictions