Alberni city council votes down own pay increase

Port Alberni city council voted 6-1 against a package that would have increased their pay, given them retirement benefits and compensated them for cellphone use.

No pay raises. No insurance plan contributions. No cell phones. Almost no nothing.

Port Alberni city council voted 6-1 against a plan that would have given the mayor and council 12 per cent and 16 per cent pays raises respectively.

An incensed Coun. Hira Chopra said the council enhancement package posed by Coun. John Douglas was out of line.

“How can we ask our workers to only take a one or two per cent raise?” Chopra asked.

“I am ashamed someone would ask for this – I told you not to bring that one.”

Other amenities voted down included councillor retirement benefit, provision of a computer, cellphone compensation and more pay for acting mayors.

The only provision councillors supported was the call for a one-day workshop for potential new city councillors before an election.

The seven recommendations were voted on one motion at a time.

Three were voted down and the last four motions never received a seconder and therefore died at the table.

When asked about where he got the information for his initiative from, Douglas said he drew it from policies in Port Coquitlam and North Vancouver.

“You did a good job of pulling together your information but the timing of this is terrible,” Coun. Kenn Whitemann said.

Douglas reiterated that he was aware Valley residents’ struggles, but said that he wasn’t initiating his effort out of greed.

“This is about enabling people…to be able to afford to run for public office,” Douglas said.

Council’s remuneration is already undergoing nominal increases, city manager Ken Watson said.

Moved by Coun. Hira Chopra and seconded by Whitemann, a remuneration bylaw adopted in February 2009 called for a two per cent increase each year through to 2015.

The increase started in 2009 but council voluntarily ceased it in 2010 after Catalyst didn’t pay its full industrial tax bill.

The increase kick-started again this year though but the city is still behind the eight-ball.

Even with the increase council in Port Alberni is still paid less than municipalities of similar size, Watson said.

Enhancing council’s remuneration would enhance their ability to be proactive, something that this council isn’t doing, Douglas said.

“There are three kinds of councils: one that makes things happen, one that watches things happen and one that asks what happened?” he said.

This council is “…in the ‘what happened?’” category, he added.

The statement was a fait accompli.

“I was prepared to support some of this – until you said that,” Mayor Ken McRae said.

Compared to MP’s and MLA’s “Most mayors get below the minimum wage,” he added.

Some 80 per cent of mayors and councils on the Island were defeated in the last municipal election.

“We’re the only council where we were all re-elected and I think we’ve done very well,” McRae said.

Douglas’ initiative should have been better thought out, he added.

“You have to find your friends on council and you have to learn how to compromise.”

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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