By Chad Ingram
Published Nov. 23, 2017
It’s an awkward conversation for municipal politicians to have, the one about how much they should get paid.
That conversation is, after all, public and they are, after all, paid with public money.
Councillors in Dysart et al, where councillors are paid significantly less than their counterparts in the county’s other lower-tier municipalities, had that conversation earlier this week, ultimately voting down a proposal to bring their pay in line with councillors from surrounding townships.
Ward councillors in any of the county’s municipalities are not paid very much by any measure. Annual compensation ranges from about $14,000 in Dysart et al, which happens to have the largest population, to about $18,500 in Algonquin Highlands, which happens to have the smallest population.
It is widely understood that being a municipal politician in Haliburton County is a part-time job, and how much councillors work is really up to them. It could be just the basics of attending council meetings and fielding calls from constituents. Other councillors spend more time poring over policy, educating themselves on issues, programs and process, and some mayors in the county will tell you they work close to full-time hours.
Mayors and deputy-mayors receive more compensation, paid both at the lower-tier level and the upper tier, as they comprise the upper-tier Haliburton County council.
With the exception of Dysart’s, deputy-mayors in the county receive annual compensation of approximately $20,000 to $22,000 from their respective municipalities. For the mayors, including Dysart’s, the range is $24,000 to $27,000.
At the county level, a base salary plus per diem and mileage payments add an additional $10,000 to $13,000 in compensation in most cases, closer to $20,000 for whomever is warden for the year.
Certainly no one is getting rich from being a municipal politician in Haliburton County.
In advocating for a compensation increase for Dysart et al council, Councillor Dennis Casey made an excellent point.
Casey is of course right that Dysart councillors should have their remuneration increased to a level comparable to the county’s other municipalities.
His point was that Dysart needs to offer competitive compensation to entice new people to get involved in municipal politics.
Municipal politics in Haliburton County is designed for middle-aged and older people. This is at least in part due to the fact that meetings are held during the daytime. While there are and have been examples of councillors in their 30s and 40s, the vast majority of local politicians are in their 50s, 60s or 70s. The vast majority are either retired, semi-retired or self-employed.
Young adults, 20- and 30-somethings, are already statistically less likely to join community groups and volunteer organizations than people of previous generations.
Part of this could be because technology allows us to essentially live our lives in a virtual world if we want to. It could also be precarious work; the so-called “gig economy” means that young adults of today have less available time than young adults of yesteryear.
Work for many is, and may always be, contract-based. This means many also have some kind of side-hustle or part-time job in order to top up their income. Throw in a couple of kids and there’s not a whole lot of time left over to climb into the local political ring.
Keeping council compensation competitive, in all the county’s townships, is a way to entice new minds to the council table.
Holding evening meetings is another.
But that’s another column.