Late last month — less than three months before the next municipal election — council made significant decisions about their own pay and the role of the mayor. Given that four of them have filed to run again (and a fifth is pending), and two of those are vying for the mayor’s role, this was a highly inappropriate decision and of questionable ethics.
In the story in CollingwoodToday, it noted:
..council voted to approve changing the position of mayor from part-time to full-time, keeping Collingwood council at nine members, and increasing the base rate of pay for council positions to $60,900 annually for mayor, $32,548 for deputy mayor and $28,000 for councillor to begin at the start of the 2022-26 council term.
These are decisions that more rightly belong with a new council, not one ending its term. Too many on the current council stand to benefit financially from these decisions should they be re-elected. But as readers know, avoiding such apparent conflicts of interest has never been part of this council’s behaviour.
And, to help justify their own greed and be able to blame someone else for it, council hired a consultant provide the advice. But wait: not just one consultant: they called in a second one seven months after they had hired a previous consultant to tell them they should get a pay raise. Clearly, the first consultant didn’t suggest they get as much money as they wanted. And you know how much this council loves to hire consultants instead of doing any thinking for themselves.
CollingwoodToday actually asked a question (yes, I, too, was gobsmacked that they did so) about why a second consultant was required so soon:
In response to questions from CollingwoodToday.ca about why a second consultant report and council vote on the matter were necessary seven months later, town clerk Sara Almas said council approved an additional $25,000 as part of the 2022 budget to be spent on a second consultant to dig deeper into council compensation and composition, as the Gallagher report was only based on comparator pay.
“Council wanted a further review with a lens on the Town of Collingwood operations, because even though we are a smaller-size municipality, Collingwood is a high-functioning, designated settlement area that does differ from our neighbours including our governance structure,” said Almas.
And the consultant provided a report based on the responses from 58 residents. A mere FIFTY EIGHT out of a population of 25,000! That doesn’t even come close to providing a statistically relevant sample for any decision.
And this demand for better pay comes after two years of a pandemic and lockdowns during which our council provided NO financial support, tax or utility bill relief to residents or businesses whose income was affected by the pandemic. Council did practically nothing for our community during the pandemic, but they have continued to give themselves pay raises, cost-of-living increases, and massive increases to their expense accounts, all paid for you, the taxpayer. As was the cost of hiring two consultants to tell this council what it wanted to hear.
(And lest we forget: this council also made our public transit system less accessible and more expensive even though the lowest-income people depend on it the most.)
I’ve often said that our community had evolved and grown enough to require a full-time mayor. But I believe that decision should have been an election issue put to the voters. And no decision should be based on the responses of a mere 58 residents (which again underscores the utter failure of the town’s flaccid communications policy). And I’ve also argued that council’s pay increases and cost-of-living increases should not be granted any year in which the property tax increases are more than 2%.
This council’s greed knows no bounds; they are absque verecundia: without shame when it comes to their own entitlement.
Collingwood deserves better.
Voters have the opportunity to elect someone who actually cares more about the community than themselves this fall.