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25% pay raise for Victoria councillors is on hold

A task force will be appointed to make recommendations on pay. Councillors had voted 5-3 to raise their own pay, sparking a storm of criticism.
VICTORIA, B.C.: JANUARY 29/2024-Victoria City Hall on Pandora Avenue in Victoria, B.C. January 29, 2024. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST). For City story by Stand Alone.

Victoria councillors have put on hold plans to give themselves a 25 per cent pay raise.

Saying they heard the concerns raised by Victoria residents, councillors Thursday voted to pause the pay raise and establish a task force to make recommendations on salary adjustments and when they will take effect.

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna, who on March 14 put forward the motion to increase council salaries by 25 per cent, said the public made it clear they didn’t like the way the issue was handled.

“There’s always going to be divergent views in a functional and healthy democracy, that’s fine,” he said. “What I heard from the public is that there were concerns about the process and about procedure.”

The opinion pages of the Times Colonist have had plenty of letters from readers upset that council voted itself a large salary increase, many saying it was too much, some saying it should apply to the next council and others concerned it was brought forward for a vote without any warning. A few letters said the pay raise made sense and is needed to attract a wider range of candidates for council.

“I want us to be on the same page about process because we’re not always going to be on the same page about content,” Caradonna said Thursday. “So with that, I’m happy to push pause on this process and the consideration of remuneration and to put it in the hands of an independent task force.”

Caradonna promised that he would agree to whatever the task force recommends.

Council voted unanimously to have city manager Jocelyn Jenkins strike a task force that will be overseen by a senior city official and include a diverse group of community, non-profit, labour, government and business leaders.

The task force, which will be expected to provide a report and recommendations by July 1, will review the city’s decision on pay and benefits, meet with councillors to determine time commitments for city work, determine salary and benefit adjustments and when those adjustments should take effect.

Coun. Krista Loughton said it was clear the public was surprised by the vote on March 14.

“For that I apologize,” she said, adding she voted for the change in pay structure at the time because the city had not had a remuneration review since 2008. “I also wanted to ensure that council’s remuneration was not a deterrent to running for office for lower-income people.”

Loughton, who was emotional at times on Thursday, said it has been humiliating to be in a position to have to vote on her own salary. She said she is committed to working toward a new system that would establish a more regular review of salaries.

“We need a standardized system to review remuneration. This way there will be no big hikes at one time because they do not happen often enough and this becomes politically charged as we have witnessed hugely over the last three weeks,” she said. “I do not want any future councillors to be in the position I have been put in over the last few weeks.”

Coun. Dave Thompson, who also voted in favour of the increase, said he agrees no councillor should be in the position to vote on their own pay and that he will bring a motion to council to have the mayor write to the province to change the council compensation approval process, to remove council from making decisions on their own compensation.

Council had voted 5-3 to have a raise come into effect May 1.

It would have seen councillor salaries increase to $65,525 from the current $52,420.

The mayor’s salary would have remained at $131,050 this year.

Councillors Marg Gardiner and Stephen Hammond and Mayor Marianne Alto voted against the pay raise, while Coun. Chris Coleman was absent from council.

Alto said Thursday she is confident the task force will provide excellent advice and having them weigh in on when any salary adjustments would take effect will further improve the process.

Hammond said while he supports the task force, he holds firm to his view that whatever recommendation the panel comes up with, any increases must be for the next council.

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