Wage issue heats up in Squamish 

Pay for mayor and council on par with peers, but still too low say councillors

A report on council wages ignited a long discussion about fair pay at Tuesday's District of Council meeting, with Councillor Bryan Raiser going as far as to suggest that now might be a good time to start throwing out numbers.

The mayor of Squamish, Greg Gardner, currently earns $35,923 a year, while councillors earn $17,243.

The Human Resources department at the District of Squamish looked at municipalities with similar annual operating budgets, $16 million to $40 million, as well as municipalities with populations between 10,000 and 25,000. Squamish has roughly 15,000 residents.

In comparison, Whistler's mayor is paid $81,802 annually and councillors are paid $29,312 in recognition of the workload and the fact that the population varies between 10,000 permanent residents and 50,000 depending on the week and the number of visitors in town.

Among other things the District of Squamish report found that Squamish elected officials are among the lowest paid, with the mayor's salary at the 42 nd percentile (with the highest paid mayor in a similar-sized community representing 100 per cent), and councillors in the 70 th percentile. With the exception of Pitt Meadows, councillors in all other comparable communities earned over $20,000 per year, while mayors generally earned $50,000 or more.

Bryan Raiser says he made increasing wages one of his campaign promises, believing that it would allow more people to participate in local politics while also recognizing the amount of work the job requires.

"I've been yelling about this for eight years since I found out how little council was paid," he said. "It's not even about how much we're paid, it's about fair and equal representation. How much we're paid... assures that we'll be represented by retired or wealthy residences - which are important groups that need to be represented, but to only represent those people is ridiculous.

"It's not a volunteer job, it's not a part-time job."

Councillor Rob Kirkham took some exception to the idea that he only represents his age and income group.

"I'm not sure how others see themselves, but I don't see myself as pigeon-holed to representing these people or those... I was elected by the entire community to represent every citizen in the community," he said. He also said that public office should be a sacrifice to some degree, and that sitting on council is not a job.

Raiser replied that it is. "This is totally a job... Of course it's a job, and it's a bloody serious job and should be respected as such."

Councillor Patricia Heintzman said she almost didn't run for office because of the low salary and high demands on her time.

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