Diane Proctor is so upset at a recent decision that Port Alberni city council made concerning a wage increase that she has taken to the streets with a picket sign.
Proctor walked in front of city hall and other locations in the city in early August, bringing her objections to fellow residents. “I’m so angry I can’t even sleep at night. I thought if you really feel strongly about something, put your money where your mouth is,” she said.
At its July 12, 2021 meeting city council heard a marketplace review from an independent consultant stating that Port Alberni’s mayor and council are underpaid compared to councils in similarly-sized communities. The consultant, Julie Case, proposed salary increases to bring Port Alberni council’s wages closer to the “median level.”
That means the Port Alberni’s mayoral salary would increase to $59,100 (39 percent higher) and councillors’ to $26,300 per person (a 40 percent increase). Council approved the increase, which will not come into effect until Jan. 1, 2023—after the next municipal election. The present mayor and council will not be receiving a wage increase as a result of this decision.
But Proctor said a 40 percent increase is too much after the economic pressures Canadians have been under thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. “Everyone is financially suffering,” she said. “Why would council and the mayor make it harder on people by taking this huge raise? It says they don’t care about people in this city and they just want a raise. There’s no accountability for that.”
In making their decision about the wage increase for the next council, councillors said raising salaries is important to ensure that more people can afford to run for council by paying a livable wage. Proctor said municipal politicians should be more concerned about serving their city than how much money they are going to earn by serving office.
“If you’re going to get into politics you should know what you’re getting into, and going in for the right reasons.”
There are three ways that municipalities in British Columbia look at wage increases for council members and mayors, according to the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM): either city staff determine how much wages should be increased, the city brings in an independent consultant to examine wages, or a task force that includes local residents is struck to consider the question.
The City of Port Alberni brought in an independent consultant, who examined salaries from council members and mayors in 10 communities of similar population and tax base.
Proctor said Port Alberni city council should look at an independent task force before they consider raising wages again.
Proctor and her husband, both seniors, were living in a condo in Nanaimo and decided they wanted something a bit larger. They came to Port Alberni five years ago and purchased a house within city limits. Now, she said they worry about how high residential taxes are going to go in Port Alberni, and how they will pay for them on their seniors’ pension incomes.
She is surprised at how many people didn’t seem to realize that council had approved such a large wage increase. She said many people she spoke to outside of Walmart on one day thought the increase was four percent, not 40 percent.
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— With files from Elena Rardon, Alberni Valley News