Most on Maple Ridge council don’t want wage increase

March 9, 2012
By Phil Melnychuk – Maple Ridge News
Published: March 07, 2012 8:00 AM

Only one member of Maple Ridge council, so far, favours a pay raise for local politicians.

No decision has been made yet, or on a method to determine if one is warranted.

Coun. Al Hogarth supported a staff report that calls for cost-of-living increases each January, and resetting council’s base salary every three years, after the new council compares politicians’ pay in 10 Lower Mainland cities.

“I support this and I’m not ashamed about it at all,” Hogarth said at Monday’s workshop meeting.

Every council he’s been on has brought value to the community and councillors at least deserve a cost-of-living increase. Council has done a good job, he added.

“It’s cost me a lot of money being on this council and representing the community.”

Hogarth, a realtor, said his records show he lost sales because he had to turn down business because of his role as councillor.

“It’s cost me $90,000 to sit here. That’s bread and butter taken out of my family income, out of my retirement plan – to be here.”

He said he had to turn down the marketing of two real estate projects in 2011 in the downtown area so he wasn’t in a conflict of interest in his role of councillor. Refusing those projects worked out to a loss of about $90,000 in real estate earnings, he said later.

Hogarth also said having a public group or body decide council wages was tried several years ago, but it didn’t work.

“In all fairness, I think we’ve done a good job.”

He said council’s work load has doubled compared to what it was 10 to 15 years ago, because of downloading from senior governments. “And it’s getting worse.”

Hogarth said he now works about 30 hours a week as councillor and local councils now take a more active role in issues, such as homelessness, which adds to the work load. For instance, 18 years ago there was no Lower Mainland treaty advisory committee, which he is a member of.

He is also on the Fraser Basin Council, and at the district level, sits on the parks and leisure services commission, the advisory committee on accessibility issues, as well as the economic advisory commission. He’s also council liaison for the chamber of commerce, the Pitt Meadows Airport Society and Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

Council reviewed its policy Monday after cancelling a scheduled increase in December and as it still tries to find a way to determine what politicians should get paid.

The latest staff report says council should increase its salary every January, based on the Metro Vancouver consumer price index.  As well, staff suggest that politicians pay be reviewed every three years at the start of a new council, by comparing those salaries to other Lower Mainland cities and whether the wages reflect the time required to do the job. If necessary, a new base salary would be set at that time.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie, however, said some kind of public body should set council increases.

“I think we’ll never sell it to the public when we, ourselves, are doing it, [setting salaries].”

Metro Vancouver should get involved to see if there was a way of settling salaries at arms-length from the politicians. Perhaps the new municipal auditor general could do that, she added.

She, along with Couns. Bob Masse, Judy Dueck and Corisa Bell, wanted no increases in the present council’s term. Coun. Michael Morden, who was absent, said previously he also wanted a freeze on council salaries.

Maple Ridge’s current policy for setting council pay is to compare 10 Lower Mainland cities and pay at the 65 percentile mark of the salary level. That means, Maple Ridge council salaries would be higher than 65 per cent of those 10 cities and lower than 35 per cent.

That policy had councillors due for a 13-per-cent hike over three years and the mayor receive a nine-per-cent hike over that time, in addition to annual cost of living increases. However, council in 2009, cancelled those cost of living increases.

The new council nixed those increases in December following a motion by the mayor and after Bell campaigned against them in the November election.

Maple Ridge councillors currently earn $37,300 and the mayor makes $92,300 yearly.

Coun. Bell, however, pointed out that she knew what the salary was when she ran, and knew she was going to take a $70,000 cut in pay. Twenty-eight people ran for Maple Ridge council in last November’s election.

“There are so many people who will do the work at the pay offered.”

Perhaps council could set limits for council salary increases during its term. And if council expanded to eight, as it can now that Maple Ridge’s population is above 50,000, shouldn’t it cut council salaries to reflect the reduced workload? she asked.

Morden also wanted raises for senior, non-union staff at district hall to be disconnected from settlements reached by the Canadian Union of Public Employees, pointing out a two- or three-per-cent increase on a $150,000 salary is larger than three- or four-per-cent increase on a $50,000 salary.

Councillors salaries jumped 53 per cent following a review in 2008.

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