Whitehorse city council members will not receive any increase to their base salaries as they were scheduled to on Jan. 1, 2021.
Council members voted Oct. 13 to decline the adjustment that was set to be made to their salaries on Jan. 1. While the adjustment is based on the most recent consumer price index (CPI) available, that figure would go back to 2019 as the 2020 figure isn’t calculated until a later date in 2021.
Coun. Samson Hartland had proposed the wage freeze for council salaries, noting that doing so was an opportunity for council to lead by example at a time when many businesses are suffering from the economic impacts of COVID-19.
At the Oct. 13 council meeting, he reiterated his point on the matter, adding this is one way of showing council is committed to keeping costs down during “unprecedented times.”
As he stated when he first brought forward the motion: “What I’m hoping to do through the notice of motion is proactively take a step forwards in our remuneration that we have control (of) to make sure we’re not experiencing the increase, whereas the CPI may be of negative value, and of course future council will have to deal with that at the time.
“The negative impact of CPI is very real and when that calculation comes into effect you’ll see from the bylaw if there’s a negative CPI it will be no increase.”
Other council members agreed with Hartland’s motion and also emphasized the importance of the move while suggesting it is a small gesture and they hope to do more in the future.
Coun. Steve Roddick, for example, suggested some thought should be given to where the inflationary amount could go, noting there are many in the community feeling the economic impact of COVID-19.
As Coun. Laura Cabott pointed out though the inflationary amount would be between $800 and $900 per council member and that’s an amount she would leave to administration to determine the best direction for.
She thanked Hartland for bringing the matter forward and described it as “a great start”, noting her desire to look at opportunities in the future to do more for businesses and individuals impacted by the economic downturn of 2020.
Others also voiced their support to decline the 2021 CPI increase, though Coun. Dan Boyd first confirmed with administration it was a one-time change.
While the current council voted to freeze its own wages for the remainder of their term, in a separate vote members also passed third reading of a bylaw setting out the wages for next term of council.
The current council typically sets the wages for the next term of council about a year ahead of a municipal election. Municipal voters will next go to the polls on Oct. 21, 2021.
The bylaw for the next term of council sets the mayor’s annual salary at $102,502 and councillors’ salaries at $36,901 with adjustments for the annual Consumer Price Index in Whitehorse.
In a previous interview, Hartland said while the freeze on current council wages is an opportunity for council to lead by example, he would also support the increase for the 2021 to 2024 term of council knowing that the CPI for 2020 will likely be at zero. That means wages for the next council are not likely to change in the first year because any potential CPI increase would be based on the 2020 year.
Before voting in favour of the increase for the 2021-2024 term of council, council members also approved amendments brought forward by Coun. Jan Stick to set the timing for the CPI increase to Nov. 1, rather than Jan. 1. That means the change will be based on the CPI from the year previous rather than two years previous. The change for Nov. 1, 2022, for example, will be based on the CPI for 2021.
Hartland praised the amendment, noting it addresses his concerns that the wage changes more accurately reflect the most recent economic realities being faced by the city in a given year.
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org