CENTRE WELLINGTON ‒ The impact of paying the Mayor and councillors a living wage and its links to candidate diversity in future elections were hot topics during discussions about recommended salary increases Monday evening.
This follows council's unanimous approval of staff-recommended pay increases for both the mayor and councillors.
Mayor and councillors official salaries in 2024 increase to $53,397 for mayor and $28,072 for councillors.
"I can say for a fact how hard this group works and continues to work and the work that they do here shouldn't be diminished," said Mayor Shawn Watters, during the meeting. "We need to have good people here and so these are not crazy numbers."
But Coun. Lisa MacDonald was adamant that she felt Centre Wellington was "behind the game" when it comes to councillor and mayor rights.
Watters will make $47,286 this year. According to the staff report, that's 13 per cent below what is considered a "reasonable pay target." Councillors earn $23,716, 18.4 per cent below what is considered reasonable.
"I think it should be a little bit higher but again, these are the hard questions that we have to address," said MacDonald. "This is money and this is what we do for our time.
In comparasons included in the staff report, a mayor's annual base salary ranged from $36,811 in Wilmot to $107,469 in Halton Hills, while councillors' wages range from $18,268 in Pelham to $46,941 in King.
"It's so important for every council to address these hard decisions and these numbers and not put it off because then we end up here where we're playing catch up," said MacDonald. "That's not really fair. We have to follow market value."
Coun. Bronwynne Wilton was also curious how attracting diversity factors into the importance of staying at "market value."
Presenting the report and answering questions during the meeting, Rashid Hasan, chief human resources officer, acknowledged that both positions require a lot of commitment and that staff recommend paying councillors a living wage to attract a variety of candidates in future elections.
"If somebody doesn't have a business or job, this could be their main gig. So it is a lot of time commitment during the day and after hours and all that," said Hasan. "We fully understand that to attract the right kind of people to this table, compensation does matter."
Watters also asked that when salaries are revisited in the future, the decision be made at the beginning of the term rather than pre-election so that they can encourage "good people" to be a part of the process.
"When you politicize something like this, we end up (in a situation where) every end of term, council decides if they want to get reelected and it looks like they've given themselves a salary increase that will be taken by the public as a bad thing," said Watters. "I know these are difficult decisions and I appreciate your frankness on this but we might not have had this conversation at the end of the term."
Going forward, staff are also proposing a joint council and staff compensation market review every four years to ensure rates remain consistent with the market.
Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.