The issue of remuneration for local government representatives came up for debate at the Strathcona Regional District last week.
This issue comes up on a regular basis with every local government, be it a municipality or a regional district. It never seems to get resolved. That’s why Coun. Andy Adams idea that the province or the Union of B.C. Municipalities should set compensation rates for elected officials across the province has merit. That depoliticizes the process and relieves the officials of the task of having to set their own pay raises; which is really a conflict of interest.
One of the problems is that the compensation is being seen as pay. It’s not actually pay, it’s an honorarium. Local government is a contribution to your community. In many ways it’s like a volunteer job. The pay is designed to cover expenses incurred on behalf of the community and as a thank-you for your dedication. The notion that you should be paid for what you do then starts to influence the reasons why people run for local government and they’re not always the most altruistic.
The SRD board debate has gotten bogged down, as these bodies always do, on what is appropriate pay. Director Brenda Leigh laments that she doesn’t get adequate compensation for what she does. She probably doesn’t.
You’d be hard pressed to find a harder working local representative in this area. But setting the directors’ compensation level has become focused with who should set that level. Leigh said it shouldn’t be the board, it should be a consultant.
That, however, isn’t right. It should at least be the elected board because they can be held accountable to the public,come election time. With direction from the province.