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Victoria councillors vote to increase their pay this term

Report shows council makes less than other B.C. cities, mayor profoundly opposes mid-term raise
Victoria councillors voted to raise their pay before the next election. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

Victoria councillors have voted to give themselves a raise that could come into effect during their current term.

Councillors voted 5-3 on Thursday (March 14) to raise their pay to 50 per cent of the mayor’s base salary moving forward.

The city will continue is existing policy of annually adjusting council member pay to match Victoria’s inflation rate.

Thursday’s vote followed a consultant’s report that reviewed Victoria’s council remuneration and how that compensation compares with other municipalities.

Councillors currently make 40 per cent of the mayor’s base salary, which is the same rate used in Saanich, Kamloops and several Lower Mainland cities, according to the consultant’s report. Councillors’ base pay would’ve risen from $51,000 to almost $64,000 in 2023 if they made half the mayor’s salary.

Victoria councillors make about $4,000 less than the 2023 median pay of their counterparts from 11 B.C. cities the consultant’s report looked at. Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto’s base pay in 2023 was just shy of $128,000, which came in about $14,000 under the median rate for the heads of those 11 cities.

Alto voted in favour of raising councillor pay to half of her position’s rate, but was “profoundly in opposition” to doing so this term.

“It is never appropriate for any agency, ever, under any circumstances, to vote itself a raise,” the mayor said, adding current councillors knew what they were getting into when they ran in the last election.

The previous council received a wide-ranging governance review that made several council pay recommendations, but those officials chose to punt the review’s adoption until after the 2022 election. The governance review recommended Victoria conducts a council base pay review each term and enables adjustments to take effect for the next elected council.

Council voted last year to have staff undertake a formal update of council pay policies, which resulted in Thursday’s consultant report.

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna moved amendments that updated that pay policy as he said the process has gone on long enough and remuneration recommendations were the only outstanding items from the governance review. Those approved amendments will also “confirm” that councillor positions are full-time work as they’re currently considered part-time.

Councillors who supported the pay updates said their duties easily meet the full-time threshold as they form policy, attend events, meet and listen to community stakeholders and respond citizens.

The governance review concluded council member workload amounts to at least 25 to 30 hours per week, before factoring in time spent on: additional preparation time on complex issues, miscellaneous administrative tasks, attending conferences or professional development.

That governance review found the current pay levels were identified as a potential barrier for candidates who may otherwise be interested in running for office.

“The demands of the role mean most would not be able to maintain other regular employment, and economic circumstances may limit who can be a member of Council. Remuneration should be part of creating conditions that allow broad diversity of candidates,” the MNP governance review states.

“Fair pay for full-time work will allow me, and anyone else who sits in this chair in the future to dedicate themselves more fully to this enormously important job,” Caradonna said.

“I’m going to be advocating for an increase of pay of people whose politics and values I don’t agree with, but that’s OK,” Coun. Susan Kim said.

Alto said council must reflect the city it governs, but noted upping pay now would not increase diversity around the table this term.

“This can only be considered by the public as something that serves the interest of the present council members,” she said.

Alto and councillors Marg Gardiner and Stephen Hammond voted against raising councillor pay this term.

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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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