Coun­cil­lors call on col­leagues to freeze pay rate

Elected of­fi­cials must ‘lead by ex­am­ple,’ show fis­cal re­straint: Suther­land, Farkas

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - SAMMY HUDES [email protected]­media.com [email protected]­media.com

Two Cal­gary coun­cil­lors are call­ing on their col­leagues to freeze their pay rate for the up­com­ing year.

Coun­cil­lors Ward Suther­land and Jeromy Farkas are pitch­ing sep­a­rate pro­pos­als seek­ing to en­sure coun­cil mem­bers don’t re­ceive an au­to­matic pay in­crease ex­pected in Jan­uary.

Farkas was the first to an­nounce his pro­posal in a news re­lease early Wed­nes­day morn­ing. An irked­sound­ing Suther­land tweeted out his own pro­posal a few hours later, point­ing out that he set plans in mo­tion weeks ago to in­tro­duce it at the Dec. 17 meet­ing of coun­cil.

Both coun­cil­lors said Wed­nes­day that elected of­fi­cials should “lead by ex­am­ple” by show­ing fis­cal re­straint as Cal­gary con­tin­ues to strug­gle to emerge from the eco­nomic down­turn.

“We need to lead (by) ex­am­ple and show the other parts of the city that our ex­pec­ta­tion is a zero,” Suther­land said Wed­nes­day. “As you know, ma­jor (labour) ne­go­ti­a­tions were due back in Jan­uary. We don’t have an agree­ment at this point, we need to lead and show an ex­am­ple.”

Mo­ments ear­lier, Farkas said some­thing sim­i­lar to re­porters gath­ered at city hall. “It’s my hope that coun­cil by tak­ing a pay freeze will send a strong mes­sage not just to the pub­lic, but also city ad­min­is­tra­tion and staff that we are lead­ing by ex­am­ple,” he said. “We are not ask­ing you to do any­thing that we our­selves are not will­ing to do.”

Coun. Sean Chu and Coun. Joe Magliocca both said on Twit­ter they would sup­port Suther­land’s mo­tion. Coun. Jeff Dav­i­son said Wed­nes­day he also planned to sup­port the mo­tion.

An­nual salary ad­just­ments for Cal­gary ’s elected of­fi­cials are made au­to­mat­i­cally based on a 12-month av­er­age of Al­berta weekly earn­ings re­ports com­piled by Statis­tics Canada.

Coun­cil’s pay bump is not yet con­firmed, but cur­rent es­ti­mates peg the po­ten­tial in­crease at around 2.5 per cent. The city said Wed­nes­day it could not ver­ify the ex­act amount of the hike un­til fi­nal­ized fig­ures on wages for Septem­ber are re­leased by Statis­tics Canada.

In 2018, for the sec­ond year in a row, Cal­gary ’s mayor and coun­cil­lors saw their pay­cheques shrink slightly. An­nual salaries for the mayor and 14 coun­cil­lors de­creased by 0.08 per cent on Jan. 1, mean­ing coun­cil­lors earned $90.73 less than last year, while Nen­shi’s pay­cheque was $160.60 lighter com­pared with 2017.

Coun­cil­lors’ an­nual salaries cur­rently sit at $113,416, plus ben­e­fits and ex­penses, while Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi earns about $200,500.

Nen­shi and the city’s 14 coun­cil­lors took a 2.49-per-cent pay cut in 2017 over the pre­vi­ous year, fol­low­ing sev­eral years of au­to­matic hikes.

Farkas said Wed­nes­day that he felt coun­cil should tackle the salary is­sue sooner than Suther­land had pro­posed. He said he wanted coun­cil to make a de­ci­sion on the freeze at the out­set of bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions next week to “set the tone early.”

He said he’s also seek­ing a freeze on coun­cil pay for the re­main­der of the term, not just in 2019.

But Farkas’s ap­proach ap­peared to ruf­fle some feath­ers Wed­nes­day, with some of his col­leagues sug­gest­ing he should have gone through the proper chan­nels.

“The re­al­ity is there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about do­ing these things,” Dav­i­son said.

“Ob­vi­ously, the ma­jor­ity of coun­cil knew Coun. Suther­land was bring­ing for­ward a no­tice of mo­tion. We talk, we work to­gether. Whether you agree or dis­agree with a no­tice of mo­tion — it’s a cour­tesy to the other coun­cil­lors that you say ‘this is what I’m bring­ing for­ward’ and you re­spect that process.”

Suther­land said Wed­nes­day that he has filed his mo­tion with the clerk’s of­fice and told “most” of coun­cil about it, though he hadn’t spo­ken to Farkas.

It’s been just over two years since coun­cil last closely ex­am­ined the topic of pay.

A five-mem­ber ci­ti­zen com­mit­tee that ex­am­ined the salary ad­just­ment for­mula in 2017 said it should stay in place, though the vol­un­teer mem­bers rec­om­mended sev­eral changes, in­clud­ing hav­ing coun­cil vote an­nu­ally on whether to ac­cept the pay hike or cut, elim­i­nat­ing tran­si­tion al­lowances for elected of­fi­cials and chop­ping the mayor’s pay­cheque by six per cent.

The com­mit­tee ex­am­ined coun­cil pay in other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and found at the time that Cal­gary’s mayor and coun­cil­lors earned the most of seven cities pro­filed, though Ed­mon­ton coun­cil re­ceives a hefty tax break that pushes their net salary higher than Cal­gary’s.

Re­gard­ing the pay freeze pro­posal, Nen­shi said Wed­nes­day that coun­cil­lors shouldn’t med­dle with the orig­i­nal de­ci­sion made by the ci­ti­zen com­mit­tee. “That means you don’t in­ter­fere on the up side or on the down side,” Nen­shi said.

“We rise and fall with the econ­omy. That was the de­ci­sion that coun­cil had made and I see no rea­son to change that be­cause, ul­ti­mately, politi­cians shouldn’t con­trol their own salaries.”

AL CHAREST

Coun. Jeromy Farkas an­nounces he is seek­ing to en­sure his peers don’t re­ceive the au­to­matic pay in­crease ex­pected in Jan­uary.

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