Paying for council

We hope the release of remuneration figures for council members will encourage citizens to consider the broader issues that loom behind the numbers.

We hope the release of remuneration figures for council members will encourage citizens to consider the broader issues that loom behind the numbers.

Without commenting on any individuals per se, they reveal for one an immense discrepancy between the pay for the office of mayor and the office of councillor.

While one could justify this difference on the respective importance of each office, we would like to note each position carries exactly the same weight when the time to vote arrives. Councillors also invest a comparable amount of time in preparing for meetings and other obligations.

Granted, it might not be popular to demand higher wages for politicians, who often labour — unfairly we might add — under the suspicion of being less than honest characters.

But such a critical response rests on an unsound premise. Contrary to conventional wisdom, politicians, especially on the municipal level, are not in it for the money. True, countless politicians have used their political career as calling cards for the corporate sector, where salaries are significantly higher than in the public sector. But this space can think of countless, far less cumbersome ways to fulfill ambitions of fame and fortune than embark on a political career.

Can municipalities be more frugal? Perhaps. Tracking municipal spending, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has over the years made suggestions to curb what political scientists call rent-seeking, self-serving behaviour.

But rent-seeking happens in all sectors, including the corporate world. We certainly hope that critics of the public sector — whose public presence has actually retreated in recent years — will look at the newly released figures with some perspective. Tough financial times demand sacrifices from all. But this can only happen if all receive the same degree of scrutiny.


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