Editorial: Are councillors salaries really that low?

There are several problems with those arguments

The recent brouhaha over council salaries has revealed some fascinating takes on how North Cowichan councillors view their roles.

Veteran councillor Al Siebring has suggested the only way to attract good young candidates is to ensure the financial rewards are adequate, “otherwise the municipality ends up stuck with old people like me.”

An emotional Coun. Maeve Maguire shared Siebring’s sentiments, adding “if we were able to pay council members appropriately for their work, we’d be able to attract good people.”

There are several problems with those arguments, starting with a discussion of what is appropriate remuneration and what attracting good people really means.

For example, Mayor Jon Lefebure, who serves as North Cowichan mayor and CVRD chair, took home $102,480 in 2016. North Cowichan councillors who get appointed to the CVRD board top up their stipends to close to $40,000.

Coun. Kate Marsh, who weighed in on the salary debate with a personal attack on Coun. Joyce Behnsen, argues that she’d like to see more young people at the table “but they have more financial responsibilities than many seniors which prevents them from participating in such a time-consuming endeavour.”

Marsh, it should be pointed out, has been appointed to the CVRD board for the past three years, enabling her to add another $17,000 to her North Cowichan salary of $21,000. In the latest figures available, Tom Walker earned $19,000 for his participation at the CVRD table in addition to his $21,000 from the municipality.

Council voted to ask staff to draft a report on council salaries. Only Behnsen was opposed.

“The amount of pay we receive was never intended to be a full-time wage because what we do is a public service,” she said.

Ultimately, it will be up to North Cowichan voters to decide which view of the world works for them when election time rolls around in November.

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