It should come as no surprise the issue of councillor compensation in this city keeps surfacing.
That’s because the issue has not been addressed in any meaningful way. Thus, we witness needless rhetoric, grandstanding and the trumpeting of curious points of comparison in an attempt to justify one number or another.
Determining fair compensation for elected officials is something with which this city has struggled. Previous attempts have had mixed success. We stress that simply pointing to another municipality whose elected officials have higher salaries as reason to raise their own salaries is a pointless exercise; it lacks context and creates a potentially never-ending cycle of one-upmanship that doesn’t address the primary question: what is fair compensation?
Toronto council must explore a more permanent policy, one that respects the public service being provided, acknowledges the effects of a fluctuating economy, and takes into account the view of the citizens being served. For example, we’re intrigued by a suggestion from Councillor Josh Matlow that would delegate authority on this matter to an “objective” citizen committee but would like to hear more details.
Otherwise, this issue will continue to surface – to the point of distraction from other, more pressing council business.
This isn’t about preventing discussion or debate on a matter that’s unsettled; it’s about priorities.
A sensible, more permanent plan puts the issue in proper context and also can be used as a blueprint for the future. It will be helpful to have a guide. The focus and discussion centres around the elected officials otherwise; not on the communities they were elected to serve. Is councillor compensation really the most important challenge facing this city? More attention needs to be paid to the big-ticket items.
The pay freeze council approved on Tuesday is prudent. It’s in keeping with the fiscal restraint demanded by Mayor Rob Ford. This is more than a symbolic gesture; such a measure puts those in favour in a stronger position when advocating for belt-tightening in other areas. Practising what one preaches resonates with the public.
While we applaud the setting of a proper example, the increase councillors would forgo is a really tiny slice of the budget pie and is not going to address Toronto’s budget woes in any noticeable fashion. Deal with it and move on.
There are far greater challenges ahead.
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