If you’re in a union and have a collective agreement in place, the terms and conditions of that agreement determine your pay scale along with a salary increase schedule. Conversely, if you’re not in a union, your employer annually (theoretically) provides you with a salary increase, which is usually based on your previous year’s performance and the profitability of that year’s business. But what if you’re an elected official, where do you go for your raise? When do you obtain your raise? What benchmark is employed? In all my years following governments I have never seen taxes decrease, I have never seen the police, fire, and public works departments incur any decreases in their operation budget be it current or capital, or for that matter, even remain at the previous year’s spending level. I have never seen an elected group discuss or give themselves a raise while on the campaign trail before an election. That would be like scoring intentionally on your own goalie. I think you’d agree that the general public puts a ban upon intelligence and honesty, and a premium upon stupidity and selfishness if this is the norm.
Cornwall’s city council presently is debating what, if any, raise they should get and the means by which they should be rewarded for such work. It appears that those councilors, thus far anyway, who have aspirations to either running again or to run for a higher office, have taken to the hills, while others are upfront and forthright on the issue. Any politicians that say to the public it’s not about the money should be prepared to do the job at cost…for the good of democracy…to help his/her neighbor… for the internal rewards. Yep, that sure closes the door on that approach now doesn’t it? Look, if we have qualified staff and pay them in the range of $100,000.00 to $150,000.00 dollars annually, then why in heaven’s name do we need a full-time mayor along with full-time/casual councilors? The surrounding municipalities and County Council seems to be working well without full-time politicians.
There is a truism that states that if the politician is to give force to public opinion, it must be essential that the public opinion be enlightened by facts and rationality. In this case and on this issue, would it not be better to have the politicians openly debate their pay raise, or at least ask them to state their position on the issue at election time? Or would we still like to have them give themselves a raise after taking office especially in that first year so that we the public may forget what they’ve done four years hence? From a purely democratic point of view it is a certainty, would you not agree, that citizens of all municipalities should have the right that no tax increase be imposed on them without their consent?
I have reckoned that the difficulty for any elected official at any level of government is to measure the worth of their efforts in a monetary means. The facts are these: if I see blue as in the St. Lawrence River, and you see the river as blue also, the blue color you see might not be the same blue as I see. The effectiveness, the dedication, the amount of energy that an elected official believes they devote to serving the public’s good, might not be worth the same to you as it is to them. So in difference to those who have written and those that have offered comments on radio or the internet, I applaud Councilors Glen Grant and Andre Rivette for speaking their minds. Note: I did not say I agree with their rationale, only with the fact that they have the courage to state their case (remember what color I see the St. Lawrence River). All progress of any kind has resulted from an individual or group of people who took unpopular positions, and from the initial response from the public this issue, thus far, is being perceived by the taxpayers as unpopular. I, on the other hand, see it as refreshing and an honest attempt to state their opinion. Now, I’m not suggesting in any way that this approach to open government is worthy of the following definition by “Woodrow Wilson” who stated, “a radical is one of whom people say –‘he goes too far’. A conservative, on the other hand, is one who ‘doesn’t go far enough.’ Then there is the reactionary, ‘one who doesn’t go at all.’ All these terms are more or less objectionable, wherefore we have coined the term ‘progressive’. I should say that a progressive is one who insists upon recognizing new facts as they present themselves—one who adjusts legislation to these new facts”. So where do you now place these Councilors and view the issue of Councilor raises? The next step is yours, Mr. & Mrs. voter; so let those fence sitting Councilors know you’d like to hear from them before the next election. Ask them if they’re going to ask you to spare a dime for a raise.