At least Regional Council will be able to keep warm during the oncoming snowstorms by stoking the fires of public outrage. If there’s one thing people love to hate more than donair debate, it’s what their elected representatives are being paid.
So let’s talk about councillor severance packages.
The idea was floated at Monday’s executive standing committee meeting. Metro’s Stephanie Taylor reports that city staff are preparing a report to discuss the impact of introducing severance pay for Halifax councillors who are defeated in future municipal elections.
The current problem, according to Mike Savage as quoted by Taylor, is that those councillors are fired without a safety net.
“‘You’re a month-and-a-half away from Christmas and you’ve got nothing,’ Savage said.”
Currently a sitting councillor who loses doesn’t receive any severance or benefits. According to Waye Mason, this is about aligning elected officials with the minimum requirements of Nova Scotia’s Labour Act.
“It makes sense to me that you have a small cushion. You campaign to win, it is not possible to look for a job ‘just in case I need it.’ I am not worried about future employment personally, but not everyone on council comes from a consulting type background. It is hard to say to someone with regular employment experience 'just get a job.’”
As Brett Bundale at the Herald notes, both federal and provincial politicians are already set up to receive allowances if they lose on election day.
Likewise, many other municipalities in Canada provide severance pay for elected representatives. Toronto allows every member of council to collect one-twelfth of their salary for every year of service, whether they leave through resignation, retirement or defeat. Ottawa’s city council receives one month of pay for each year elected, to a maximum of six months.
But this is one of those issues where council can’t really win for trying. Unless Savage, Mason and everyone at City Hall votes to donate 100 percent of their pay to refugee puppies with gluten allergies, they will all still be making far too much according to the many who consider a government salary unilaterally equal with government waste.
But it’s not all blank cheques. This council has taken some steps to curtail their own coffers. Aside from reviewing councillor compensation, council is also trying to push through campaign finance reform to limit how much candidates can raise and how much one person or corporation can donate.
Meanwhile, the 16 sitting councillors and mayor Savage are now overdue for their annual pay raise. Human Resources are in the midst of processing that increase and will have a report back before the end of the month.
Last year saw Mike Savage receive a 3.4 per increase in his salary, topping out at $168,449. His fellow councillors received a 2.63 percent raise to $80,849, except for the deputy mayor who currently makes $88,934. As the Herald noted last year, council salaries have outpaced inflation faster than the wages of other municipal workers.
This year’s annual pay raise will be retroactively effective to November 1.