CORNWALL, Ontario – Cornwall City Council voted in favour of a pay increase for councillors.
Council passed the motion that would give them a pay increase of $1,700 this year and $1,300 in 2020. These increases, along with the annual cost of living adjustment of two per cent that councillors receive annually will bring their salary to $22,000 by 2022, the end of term for the current council.
The first number of $1,700 makes up for the cancellation of the federal tax exemption program for municipal elected officials that was ended in 2018.
A report from City administration shows that a Cornwall City Council have the tenth lowest pay as compared to 12 other municipalities. On the other hand, Cornwall has the fourth largest municipality out of those comparator cities and the second largest budget.
Currently, a Cornwall City Councillor makes $16,249.22. One comparator city was Belleville, where a councillor makes $34,000 a year, a councillor in South Glengarry makes $18,495.49.
Councillor Elaine MacDonald who put forward the motion said that her aim was to bring Cornwall Council compensation up to the provincial average.
“We are not figure heads, we are real workers,” she said. “To work as much as we do and to be paid what we are devalues the position. Right now, the only people who can really work for the wages we get, are some really brave younger people, but mostly retirees on pensions.”
The administration report cited the low pay and high number of hours expected from councillors as a possible detriment to people thinking of running for office.
“If you want a young person to run and replace this geezer, you better pay them for the work that we do,” said Councillor Syd Gardiner.
Councillor Carilyne Hebért outlined some of the work expected of a City Councillor.
“We’re expected to be experts on everything that comes across this table and we are gladly, expected to be available 24/7,” she said. “We are held to a pretty high standard by our constituents, as we should be, often for less than minimum wage.”
“None of us jumped into this because of the wage, we do this because we love what we do,” she went onto say. “This is really structured for retired folks, folks with time on their hands.”
Councillor Maurice Dupelle was one councillor who voted against the increase.
Councillor Todd Bennett, who also voted against the increase, said he did not oppose an increase to council pay, but felt that they should make the decision for future councils and not for themselves.
“I think it is very very important that we don’t compare this to my own job that I work 40 hours a week at,” he said. “I think as an individual if the compensation is not fair that I would decide not to run again for council.”
Mayor Bernadette Clement, who’s salary was not up for debate pointed out how in the month of June alone, councillors attended two council meetings, committee meetings, a team building meeting, a strategic planning meeting and special meetings.
“That’s just June. You all earned your pay, or quite frankly underpay for the work you put in,” she said.
Clement did say that she wanted to review the number of councillors that Cornwall has, stating her belief that there were too many.
Ultimately, councillors Claude McIntosh, Elaine MacDonald, Syd Gardiner, Dean Hollingsworth, Carilyne Hebért, Glenn Grant, Eric Bergeron and Mayor Bernadette Clement all voted in favour of the pay increase with councillors Maurice Dupelle, and Todd Bennett voting against. Councillor Justin Towndale abstained from the vote.