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Paying elected officials adequately would attract quality candidates, report says

An ideal council should reflect different community backgrounds, the report says
Moose Jaw City Hall
Moose Jaw City Hall (Shutterstock)

The amount of money the municipality pays its elected officials should attract a wide range of skilled people who have the background and leadership skills to move the city forward, a report suggests.

While those leadership skills are most needed in the mayor’s position, they are also valuable at the councillor level, since an ideal council should reflect different community backgrounds, explained a report that reviewed the remuneration pay rate for mayor and councillors.

“The hurdle of a decrease in pay to serve one’s community ought not to be a factor in dissuading an individual from seeking election,” the report said. “An appropriate compensation plan is therefore critical in ensuring the broadest range of candidates are prepared to put their names forward … 

“Formal plans, such as parental leave for younger members, should also be considered to make elected office a life choice that the broadest range of candidates could opt for.”

Panel recommendations

At the behest of city council, city clerk/solicitor Myron Gulka-Tiechko, labour union member Brenda Berry and RBC commercial banker Greg McIntyre formed a three-member panel that reviewed the pay of mayor and council during the past year.

The trio presented its 16 recommendations during the June 29 executive committee meeting, some of which included tying the mayor’s pay to that of a provincial MLA and basing councillors’ pay on 33.33 per cent of the mayor’s salary.

This means as of Jan. 1, 2021, the mayor would receive $100,068 and councillors would receive $33,323.

Pay for other cities

The panel’s report compared the pay of mayor and councillors in Moose Jaw to those in Swift Current, Yorkton, Prince Albert and Lloydminster. As of 2020, the mayor and councillor salaries were:

  • Moose Jaw: $79,108 / $24,918
  • Swift Current: $78,649 / $27,527
  • Yorkton: $81,755 / $24,755
  • Prince Albert: $82,736 / $27,799
  • Lloydminster: $93,600 / $31,194

Swift Current’s mayor is part-time, Yorkton’s mayor is full-time and receives 85 per cent of an MLA, and Lloydminster uses a percentage of an average cabinet minister salary.

Past report

The last comprehensive remuneration review for elected officials in Moose Jaw was in 2009, when former Regina city manager Bob Linner produced a report suggesting tying the mayor’s pay to a percentage of a provincial cabinet minister, Gulka-Tiechko explained. All the recommendations from Linner’s report are relevant today and — basing salaries on that of an MLA — connects council remuneration to an independent benchmark.

The three-member panel spoke with former Moose Jaw mayors, councillors and MLAs, who pointed out that while they viewed their office as a community service, they acknowledged that fulfilling obligations was also a draw on personal and professional time.

Needed skillset

After reviewing the work of the mayor and councillors and what the private sector values, the panel concluded that positions such as school administrators, professional managers, or tradesmen possess attributes it would like to see, especially to attract an ideal mayoral candidate, said McIntyre.

Tying the mayor’s pay to that of an MLA and keeping council’s pay at one-third of the mayor’s remuneration was important since Moose Jaw has two MLAs but only one mayor, he continued. The MLAs are more removed from average citizens, while the mayor and council have more effect on residents’ lives.

“It is evident that the mayor’s role may be more challenging than the MLAs’ (role),” added McIntyre.

Quoting the Linner report, Gulka-Tiechko remarked, “Every community should want to fairly establish reimbursement to reflect the democratic intent to attract quality candidates and fairly recognize their commitment to the difficult and increasingly complex task of governing the community, often with the loss of personal, or business time.”

The next executive committee meeting is Monday, July 13.