‘Cheap politics’ behind opposition to raises

Being on council a ‘busy part-time job’

Mayor Ernie Daykin still works six to 10 hours a week for the Baptist Housing Society.

Mayor Ernie Daykin still works six to 10 hours a week for the Baptist Housing Society.

Two councillors’ opposition to the 13-per-cent salary increase is nothing more than “cheap politics,” says one of their colleagues, Craig Speirs.

When councillors’ salaries are just raised by the cost of living, it makes it difficult for the council that follows, said Speirs, who favours the part of the phased increase, followed by an external review of the councillor pay raise method next year, a step decided last week by council.

Couns. Cheryl Ashlie and Mike Morden voted against the 13-per-cent increase, which will take place over three years and be applicable to the incoming council following the November municipal elections.

“Morden and Ashlie, all they’re trying to do is reap the political benefits by voting against this,” Speirs said Tuesday.

“It was really cheap on their parts and all they’re trying to do is reap the benefit without doing the work.”

Speirs wants to reduce the increase to about eight per cent over three years.

Council approved the salary hikes, which include a nine-per-cent raise for the mayor over the same period, following a staff report recommended salaries keep up with politicians’ pay in nearby cities.

Councillors had previously seen their salaries jump 53 per cent following a review in 2008, bringing their current base pay to $37,300, while the mayor earns $92,300.

But Morden says taxpayers have had enough and they’re telling him that in his Facebook polling.

“I’d say the fact he’s [Speirs] calling it cheap politics is cheap politics.”

Morden doesn’t agree with the policy of pegging salaries to those of surrounding cities.

“It’s a methodology for providing everybody with raises. It goes all the way through the civil service in many different levels of government.

“This is why taxpayers are paying so much money for wages everywhere, both elected and non-elected.

“If we don’t show an example that it’s got to stop at some point, then how can we expect anybody else to do that.”

Morden supports a cost of living increase, but not 13-per-cent over three years, following the review in 2008, which led to a 53-per-cent increase in council wages.

“That’s enormous,” Morden said.

“Here we are looking for more catchup.

“The taxpayers are saying, they’re not going to put up with this and they’re saying they’re done.

“Most of my polling are saying … we don’t agree with what the bureaucrats make and we don’t agree with what you make.”

In addition to their council salaries, most Maple Ridge council members have other jobs. Coun. Al Hogarth is a realtor, Morden runs his own security company, while Coun. Judy Dueck is health and safety officer for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district.

She makes time for council by starting her work days at 6 a.m. and says council work takes between 25 and 30 hours a week. It’s more than a part-time job for her, but not quite a 40-hour-week job, she said.

It was a citizens’ committee that decided to give Port Coquitlam councillors a significant raise, she pointed out. She agrees there could be point where wages could be deemed enough and only need cost of living increases.

Speirs contends that council pay needs to be significant enough to attract quality candidates.

But Morden said demanding that politicians give up their other work and commit full-time to council would change the whole system.

That would require “elevated” salaries. “Then … it becomes more of a staff position, even though it is an elected staff position.”

Morden spends about 35 to 40 hours a week on council, which comes before running his business, which he’s had to curtail because of council.

“At times, it’s difficult.”

Speirs puts in about the same hours and says he spends more time on council work since he retired from the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

When he was working two jobs, the time came at the expense of family. “Quite frankly, I stole from my kids.”

If you’re working a second job, you need flexibility in the hours and have to be prepared to work 60 to 70 hours a week, he added.

Mayor Ernie Daykin still works between six and 10 hours a week as administrator for the Baptist Housing Society.

As mayor, he puts in between 50 and 60 hours a week and said a councillor’s work is a “busy part-time job.”

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie helps with her family business, while Coun. Linda King is a retired school counsellor.

Ashlie, though, says being on council is not about the money.

“Anybody I ever connected with never went into it for the money.”

Instead, she added, the desire to serve the community, rather than the pay cheque, should be what draws people to politics.

People who give up their businesses to run for council, make financial sacrifices that could never be made up by salaries paid to councillors, she said, and that only the rich or retirees would be run for council hasn’t borne out, she pointed out.

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