Premier could see region as ‘good target’
WATERLOO REGION — Political scientist Robert Williams can see how Premier Doug Ford might target this community over the cost of its many politicians.
Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is taking extraordinary steps to slash elected politicians in Toronto and other regions, arguing that fewer politicians makes local government more efficient.
Waterloo Region has an abundance of politicians who cost taxpayers significantly more than London or Hamilton.
“He may see this as a good target,” said Williams, retired from the University of Waterloo.
In Waterloo Region, there are 41 politicians who jointly direct local government in Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo, and a further 18 who deal only with four rural townships.
The count of 41 politicians governing three local cities almost reaches the combined count of politicians governing Hamilton, London and Guelph.
Those three cities have twice the population, but do not have regional structures and are governed by 44 politicians in total.
The Ford government has put all regional governments including Waterloo under review after cancelling elections for regional chair in Niagara, Muskoka, Peel and York.
“It’s time to consider whether changes are needed to improve municipal governance in communities where populations
have grown and the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers are being stretched,” said Michael Jiggins, spokesperson for Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark.
Here is how the region compares to other local municipalities.
• Local taxpayers will spend $2.2 million next year on salaries for 41 politicians who jointly govern Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo.
These are fully taxable salaries, made transparent after the federal government eliminated a tax exemption for municipal politicians.
• London and Hamilton taxpayers will spend 29 to 51 per cent less for their politicians, benchmarking costs by population, taxation, revenue or spending. Guelph residents will spend slightly more than this region by some benchmarks.
• Compared to Hamilton, local taxpayers will spend $560,000 more for 25 more politicians to govern three cities that are slightly smaller in population.
• Compared to London, local taxpayers will spend $1.3 million more for 26 more politicians to govern three cities that are larger by one-third.
This could make you go ‘hmm’ if you were a premier bent on reducing politicians and their salaries.
“In terms of the cost of governance, the goal is to work together with municipal governments to give the people what they want,” Clark spokesperson Michael Jiggins said.
“And that is local governments that are working as effectively and efficiently as possible to support the future economic prosperity of their residents and businesses.”
In Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo, local political salaries are not connected to benchmarks such as taxation, revenue, spending or population.
• A City of Kitchener councillor is accountable on average for almost $12 million in taxes, $36 million in municipal spending, and 25,300 people. The salary is $50,912 starting in 2019.
• A Waterloo regional councillor is accountable on average for almost $31 million in taxes, $59 million in municipal spending, and 35,100 people. The salary is $43,731.
• This comparison shows regional councillors earn 14 per cent less despite being accountable for more than twice the taxation, two-thirds more municipal spending, and one-third more people.
Williams helped advise regional council on its pay. He sees political salaries as a tiny cost of government.
Slashing them may not produce the savings Ford seeks, if more aides are then hired to help fewer politicians serve the public, he warns.
Go to therecord.com to compare costs of elected politicians.