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Inter-city comparison seeks fair salary for local mayor

Ron Walter looks at what the mayor gets paid in several Canadian cities
Trading Thoughts by Ron Walter

The Trading Thoughts column of July 28 about the controversial 21 per cent increase to the Moose Jaw mayor’s salary in 2021 raised some questions from readers.

Why, for example, is the mayor’s salary — $100,068 in 2021 — linked to a cabinet minister’s salary? There is no direct link, except both are supposedly full-time.

And the question arose: Why are we just comparing our mayor’s salary to Saskatchewan cities? Why not look elsewhere too?

Yours Truly believes in fair compensation for our elected politicians, having previously written how only the rich or retired could afford to be mayor or on council. They have been changed since and become much better.

If hooking these salaries to an MLA or cabinet minister’s salary, as many Saskatchewan cities do, is unacceptable, what benchmark measure should be used?

Private business executive salaries are linked to their financial responsibilities — the size of revenues and expenditures. Politicians’ salaries in cities should reflect the city operating budget.

This column has chosen comparison of mayor’s salary and operating budgets with 12 other cities, ranging in size from 16,343 to 128,000 and includes cities from Alberta, Manitoba and Western Ontario.

While populations differ, all have one common feature. They are regional service centres.

City Mayor Salary Population
Moose Jaw $100,068 33,890
Prince Albert $88,458 39,926
North Battleford $66,384 23,265
Swift Current $78,000 18,500
Yorkton $83,635 16,343
Lloydminster $101,591 31,410
Fort McMurray $165,790 64,573
Red Deer $131,000 128,429
Medicine Hat $129,650 65,825
Grande Prairie $109,917 69,088
Lethbridge $111,179 98,198
Brandon $102,376 48,559
Thunder Bay $93,900 127,021

Highest-paid mayor is in Fort McMurray at $165,790 and looks after a $766 million budget — second highest of the group.

Second-highest paid mayor, $131,000 in Red Deer, oversees a $369 million budget, fifth largest of the sample.

Third-highest paid mayor is in Medicine Hat who gets $129,650 for the third largest budget of $394 million.

Fourth-highest mayor’s salary, $111,179 for Lethbridge, oversees a $405 million budget.

Fifth-highest paid mayor, Grande Prairie, gets $109,917 with a $183 million budget — seventh largest.

Sixth-highest salary is $102,736 in Brandon, supervising the 10th largest budget of $56.1 million.

Seventh-best paid mayor is in Lloydminster at $101,591 for a $308 million budget — sixth highest in the sample.  

Eighth-highest paid mayor is Moose Jaw to get $100,068 for a $85.14 million budget — eighth highest of the sample.

Ninth-best paid mayor is $93,900 in Thunder Bay with a $543 million budget, the highest of the 13 cities.

Tenth-highest paid mayor, Prince Albert, gets $86,078 to oversee the seventh largest budget — $91 million.

Eleventh-highest paid mayor in Yorkton gets $81,755 with a budget of $49 million, 11th lowest of the sample.

Twelfth-highest paid mayor is in Swift Current at $78,649 with a 63.6 million budget — ninth highest.

Last on the list is North Battleford at $66,884 with a $42 million budget for 12th-lowest budget of $42 million.

Based on this measure, it appears the Moose Jaw mayor’s salary won’t be that much out of line.

The mayors of Thunder Bay and Lethbridge are underpaid, with mayors of Brandon, Prince Albert, Swift Current and Red Deer overpaid.

Data was taken from 2019, or in two cases, 2018 reports.     

Ron Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article had the incorrect salary listed for Grand Prairie. It has since been corrected. We apologize for the error.

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