Editorial — Looking for a better way to set pay

A new policy that better reflects taxpayers’ ability to pay would be a significant improvement.

Langley Township council has confirmed the appointment of five people to a remuneration task force, which will be charged with looking at council members’ pay, the way it is determined and a number of other issues surrounding the way politicians are paid by taxpayers.

The members of the task force have a range of backgrounds and experiences, and should be able to do a good job in sorting out the details about council members’ pay.

Among the issues they need to look into are these. How is it that council members’ pay has risen so dramatically in the past six years — far higher than the rate of inflation? How is it that what happens in several other municipalities is used as the sole basis for setting pay rates here? How do these same municipalities set their pay scales? If they too are based on what happens in other places, this becomes nothing more than a vicious circle.

The members of the task force also need to consider that elected councillors (and the mayor) sought out these positions. They wanted to serve the public. The whole idea of public service implies that it is done without regard to remuneration.

Yet remuneration, benefits and perks, such as travelling to annual conventions of the Federation of Canadian and Union of B.C. Municipalities seem to be seen as necessary by most members of council.

Members of the public fund all the wages, benefits and perks that come to council members. Many of them haven’t seen a wage increase in years, yet are required to pay council members an additional 19 per cent as of last December, as a result of the Township policy automatically boosting council wages.

No one suggests that members of council do not work hard. They are required to read a lot of material, attend meetings with staff and residents, visit neighbourhoods where their decisions have an impact, go to community events and answer phone calls and e-mails from the public.

But they do so quite willingly. Each of them competed for the job of councillor against 26 others, and only eight of them made it. In the case of the mayor, who got a 12 per cent raise, three people sought the job.

A new policy that better reflects taxpayers’ ability to pay, distinct Langley Township conditions and a willingness to set an example, would be a significant improvement.