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Comment: Good governance starts with honesty and humility

Coun. Jeremy Caradonna’s commentary was outrageous.
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Victoria councillors in council chambers at City Hall. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A commentary by a 2022 candidate for Victoria council. He served elsewhere in municipal government for two terms, during which time he took part in both governance reviews and remuneration studies for both council and staff.

Victoria Coun. Jeremy Caradonna’s March 23 commentary “Higher pay for councillors is in the public interest” is simply put, outrageous!

Caradonna begins by quoting, out-of-context, salary increases that have no relevance to City of Victoria compensation levels — in fact, several of these increases were actually less, not more, than their preceding councils had suggested.

Next, his claim that governance is so much more complex these days — although recent provincial takeover of much of their planning functions might suggest otherwise.

Important to note are these quotes from the MNP Governance Report and the Drive Organization Development Remuneration Review: “Comparison to set of municipalities with similar population and budget indicates Victoria lags by a small percentage, insufficient to warrant a mid year adjustment,” and “a review of remuneration was conducted as part of the Governance Review and the conclusion was the current remuneration was competitive and no adjustment was recommended.”

Apparently his predecessors did not agree.

Following this, is a cry of poverty — however, he fails to point out that several councillors take over $80,000 in salary and expenses resulting from other regional duties.

Additionally, he has the gall to compare his solo wage package to the median household income for Victorians, not the individual median which is closer to half his total.

He terms the job demanding and a substantial time commitment but fails to point out that comparable cities in their recent Drive report consider it part-time, with a range of 20 to 27 hours a week.

He argues that many comparable cities follow a “half the mayor’s salary” rule — when in fact the recent Drive remuneration review shows that only three of 18 do so, and two of those are Ottawa and Edmonton with 10 times the population and 15 times the budget. That comparison borders on ridiculous and is certainly misleading.

In a rather petulant way, he throws the previous council under the bus for failing to get the job done — when as noted above, they actually felt that their wages were only slightly below the median and merely required a full review.

There was no recommendation made in the Drive report, the closest note being “most organizations target the median level of their defined market. They do not wish to be the top of the market, nor the bottom of the market, but want to be in the middle.”

That median being $55,500, it is safe to say these five clearly overshot the median by a significant margin!

Let’s be clear — five councillors raising their own salaries by 25 per cent to meet their own “half the mayor’s salary” rule and bring their positions in line with full-time work is completely and solely due to their own hubris — and not due to any laxity on previous councils or any report of any kind.

Finally, Caradonna suggests that higher compensation levels will reduce “barriers to entry” and increase “equity.”

Oddly when asked in the recent Drive report if these concepts were either being considered or even discussed — not one of the comparable jurisdictions replied in the affirmative. Could this be a concern only in the minds of certain Victoria councillors?

Perhaps Caradonna might have ended his op-ed with a slightly different line: “Good governance requires a level of honesty and humility that is often lacking in these times.”

The MNP Governance, Drive Organizational Development report, and council discussions can all be found on the City of Victoria website.

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