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EDITORIAL: Uncomfortable conversations about pay increases

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board considering a pay raise

The members of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board are considering whether to approve a pay raise for themselves.

It’s a difficult and uncomfortable topic for any elected member, in any community or at any level of government.

The 19 members of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen board received close to $560,000 in remuneration and expenses last year, according to the Statement of Financial Information.

The board also voted for an 11.9 per cent pay increase in 2019, representing around $60,000 and billed as an equalizing increase. It was done because recent tax changes reduced the amount of take-home pay for the board members.

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A cynical approach would be to suggest any elected member supporting a pay increase is at the table only for the money. The reasoning is that an elected official should be working for the good of the people, not for financial gain. Taken to the extreme, this argument would also raise doubts about the sincerity of anyone who accepts any compensation for the role, no matter how small.

Some candidates have offered to refuse a salary if elected, as a way of showing they are in the position for the right reasons. However, those who make such an offer tend to be financially able to do so.

An elected official’s role, at any level, is a difficult and often thankless job. Those who serve at the federal or provincial levels will put in long hours as they strive to represent their constituents. Even those on smaller municipal councils or on regional district boards have a considerable workload and must make sacrifices in order to do their jobs.

At a small-town council or for a rural member of a regional district, the meeting schedule alone will usually consume one full work day a week. There are also committee meetings most weekday evenings. These tasks do not include preparing for meetings and reading through agenda packages that can easily reach hundreds of pages in length.

Political representatives deserve to receive fair compensation for what they do. One would not suggest a banker, a mechanic, a doctor, a teacher or a carpenter should refuse a pay raise or offer to work at no cost.

Why should it be any different for those who have the task of making decisions about our communities, our province and our country?

— Black Press

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