Regina City Council will collectively make more money in 2021 after councillors voted in favour of increasing salaries by 26 per cent.
“This job would not be feasible or interesting at all with the salary that is on the table currently had I not already had another day job,” said Coun. Andrew Stevens, who voted in favour of the pay raise.
In an 8-3 vote, council voted to increase the mayor’s salary by 1.9 per cent to $151,015 from $148,163 and councillors’ salary to $57,660 from $45,442. The salary increase will be phased in over three years starting in January, which will benefit the newly elected council.
According to a city report, the new salaries were modelled after salaries of similar-sized cities in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Coun. Lori Bresciani, who voted in favour of the wage increase, says she hopes the pay will attract diverse people to run for city council.
“If we want diversity, true diversity, we have to increase the wage,” Bresciani said.
Several councillors like Jerry Flegel and Bob Hawkins shared anecdotal stories of people not running for council because the pay is low.
But for Coun. John Findura, sitting on council is about serving the community.
“It doesn’t feel right, this is not a good time,” Findura, who voted against the increase, said. “When I joined this wasn’t for the money. It was for the experience.”
He said he could not in good conscience vote in favour of a 26 per cent pay increase “when a grandmother has difficulty paying her water bill.”
Coun. Sharron Bryce, who voted against the wage increase, agreed with Findura citing the coronavirus pandemic.
“People are struggling to make ends meet, people lost their jobs, there are businesses going under right now and I have a hard time justifying this,” Bryce said.
“No time is a good time for a councillor to vote themselves a wage, but this is the worst time for our community right now in recent history, and I think the timing for this is not good at all.”
But Stevens viewed it differently, saying councillors are not fairly compensated for the work they put in.
“There’s a level of mental energy, time, and what residents expect of us on social media, in the community, research, independent work in addition to day-to-day activities,” Stevens said.
“It’s not feasible to suggest it’s a part time gig.”
Along with Findura and Bryce, Mayor Michael Fougere voted against the increase.
“I think you send a wrong message to the public in this environment,” Fougere said.
Earlier this year, the City of Regina laid off 80 per cent of their casual staff, with some employees still not being called back to work.
“With the biggest health emergency in our generation in front of us where people lost their jobs, homes and businesses are closing, and revenue shortfalls,” Fougere said. “Symbolically, it looks like we’re dealing with an issue that shouldn’t be a priority of council.”