Should civic politicians be involved in voting for their own raises?
It’s a thorny and contentious issue, and one Coquitlam councillor, Teri Towner, says she wants to see it put to bed.
Towner is proposing a motion to Coquitlam council calling for the province to step in and set up an independent commission that would be in charge of deciding when, how and by how much local elected officials get pay bumps.
“I mean, even though we are elected to make decisions and to show leadership, I think it can really diminish public trust,” she told Global News. “It can erode public confidence; there’s misperceptions out there and it doesn’t serve anyone when we vote on our own remuneration.”
“I’ve heard comments quite often that, ‘Oh, it must be so nice to be able to vote yourself a raise.’ Well, most of us go into public service for that, to serve the public. But in order to get paid we have to actually vote on that, getting paid. And I think that system is seriously flawed.”
Towner’s motion calls for the commission to establish a “broad, province-wide framework” that would take the matter out of elected officials’ hands.
WATCH: Vancouver city council votes, approves own raise
Coquitlam councillor Brent Amundson, who seconded the motion, said the proposal could take the acrimony out of the debate while ensuring politicians are paid a fair wage. He said the system risks shutting out good candidates otherwise.
“You don’t want to have the only people who do it be people who can afford to do it,” he said.
The issue of local politicians’ pay caused renewed furor this spring, when Metro Vancouver’s governing board voted itself a raise and retirement benefit — then scrapped the plan in the face of public outcry.
In retracting the compensation package, the board also voted to have a third-party panel revisit the way the board is paid and come back with recommendations.
At the time, Port Coquitlam mayor and board chairperson Greg Moore said he wanted the panel to bring back “not just best practices on how you calculate remuneration, but actually how you get to that point of the decision as well.”
Coquitlam council will vote on Towner’s motion Monday. If it’s successful, it would go to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) meeting in September.
That body could then vote to send the idea to the province with the backing of all B.C. municipalities.