‘Why wouldn’t we do the same?’: Councillors unanimously agree to salary freeze until 2023

EDMONTON — Edmonton city councillors voted Monday to have their salaries frozen for two years, rather keep a scheduled raise.

An independent oversight committee made the recommendation, but the councillors agreed unanimously.

“A freeze is totally in order,” Ward 11’s Mike Nickel told CTV News Edmonton.

“The most non-political thing to do is accept the recommendations, instead of trying to nitpick and decide what we should do or shouldn’t do,” Ward 1 Coun. Andrew Knack added.

Councillors make roughly $117,000 annually, while Mayor Don Iveson earns $207,000.

The salaries would have otherwise risen in January 2021 and 2022.

“We’ve asked our employees for freezes. So why wouldn’t we do the same?” Nickel asked.

Knack said increases during the pandemic would be “ridiculous.”

“Yes, it’s out of the ordinary for the committee to make a recommendation that would apply to the existing council, but it’s the right thing to do in this time.”

Iveson and Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette suggested council should consider lowering salaries in the future if Alberta’s economy continues to struggle.

RETIRED COUNCILLOR PAY

The compensation conversation also included a failed attempt by Ward 6’s Scott McKeen to see transitional pay – for councillors leaving office – increase.

McKeen told his colleagues it can be hard for ex-city councillors to find a job.

“We understand you haven’t been involved in being employed for a while, or having your own business for a while… so here’s a transition allowance,” he suggested.

“Please remember there’s no retirement benefits, there’s no pension, there’s no golden pension at City Hall.”

He said an increase would give the former municipal politicians “some comfort” taking the next step in their career.  

Councillors previously received a salary for a maximum of 36 weeks after leaving office.

The committee recommended increasing that to 39 weeks.

McKeen argued the maximum should be four weeks of transitional pay per year on council, capped at 48 weeks.

As a City Hall columnist for Postmedia, he had argued the same thing then.

“These are opinions I’ve held since long before I was on city council,” he commented.

“As leaders, we gotta be courageous. We gotta say what we feel and what our values are, and I expressed them today. And I’m sure I’ll hear from people who think I’m totally out to lunch.”

His push largely failed because the change would have benefitted current council members.

“There’s no good scenario in which a council should be voting on anything to do with their own compensation,” Knack commented.

A new agreement will see departing councillors paid three weeks of salary per year in office for up to 10 months.

McKeen said he’ll raise the issue again, but in a way that it’d only affect future councils.

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