With some candidates, both incumbents and newcomers pitching their versions of fiscal and financial responsibility, it seemed fitting to look back at one of the more controversial financial decisions early in the G5 life cycle. Of course, before looking at the decision, it would be remiss not to look at the background leading up to it.
February 3, 2020 – HR Report on Council Compensation
At the November 4, 2019 meeting Councillor Vaine advanced a motion to ask for a review of Council renumeration citing that their pay was not in line with other Town’s of similar size and population. Councillor Bothwell objected to even studying it as she felt it inappropriate for Council to consider a raising its own pay, but perhaps consideration should be for the next term of Council (2022-2026). The resolution was passed, but as the vote was not recorded, there is no way to know who voted for or against.
That report, HR 20-03 came before Council on February 3, 2020 and showed that in contrast with other local area municipalities and the Region of Niagara that pay for Members of Council in Grimsby was ABOVE the median and average for Councillors, and similar for the most part for the Mayor.
The report was received by Council. You can read the full document at this link here.
April 6, 2020 – By-law to Increase Council Pay
Despite the HR report that showed for the most part Members of Council were receiving more than the average and median of counterparts in the municipalities studied, a By-law appeared on the agenda to approve a bump up in pay.
The full text of that By-law can be read at this link here.
Councillor Bothwell raised concern that the increase was not appropriate given the previous HR report and the financial challenges that residents and the Town were facing as a result of the (then early stages of the) COVID-19 pandemic. She put forth a motion in that regard and requested that the pay levels be frozen at the 2019 levels.
Resolved that whereas the community is facing unprecedented personal and financial hardship as a result of COVID-19, and;
Whereas the Town of Grimsby will be negatively impacted and face financial challenges as a result of COVID-19,
Whereas Council remuneration as of January 1, 2020 is significantly above the median for municipalities of comparable size (8 municipalities of populations 30,000 or less) as evidenced in the February 3, 2020 HR-03 Council Compensation – Part II report to Council;
Whereas the report states the 2020 median annual remuneration for Councillors in comparable municipalities is $15,248 and Town of Grimsby Councillors receive $21,034; the median annual remuneration for Mayor in comparable municipalities is $38,577 and the Town of Grimsby Mayor receives $46,583;
Whereas the annual increment increases established in By-law 20-33 are reflective of the same percentages negotiated and agreed to for Town of Grimsby staff, and;
That Council supports efforts to mitigate the negative financial impacts to the Town’s resources during this crisis;
Therefore Council endorses the removal of the annual increment on Council salaries effective the pay of April 23, 2020 for the remainder of the 2020 fiscal year, effectively freezing salaries at the 2019 levels;
And that staff be directed to action the required pay change effective April 23, 2020, or the earliest date set by Finance payroll timelines,
Council Vardy supported Bothwell’s position saying it was the wrong time to be accepting any kind of increase.
Councillor Vaine cites that changes to Council salaries are tied to Staff increases and has been going on for years. He further stated “this is something that we don’t need to change, the penny a month we would save by not taking this increase, I don’t think it’s going to make any difference to anybody“.
Additionally he stated that the whole matter was “grandstanding”, evoking a Point of Order from Vardy on that comment. She stated “that we are facing a serious financial crisis, globally” and strongly objected to the comment.
So with an opportunity to show some fiscal prudence in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic by freezing their 2020 pay at 2019 levels, forgoing the unnecessary salary increase, here is how that vote an the amendment went down:
YEAS (Freeze 2020 Pay at 2019 Levels): Councillors Bothwell, Freake, Vardy and Mayor Jordan
NAY (No To Freezing 2020 Pay at 2019 Levels): Councillors Dunstall, Kadwell, Ritchie, Sharpe and Vaine
With that amendment now dead by way of a G5 (5-4) vote, the vote on the Confirming By-law, to enact the pay increases in the By-law (20-33) along with some other By-laws also went to a recorded vote. So if you are wondering “How They Voted?”:
|YEAS - VOTED TO INCREASE THEIR PAY|
|NAYS - DID NOT SUPPORT PAY INCREASE|
The By-law was APPROVED by the patterned, 5-4 vote.
By April 2020, the pandemic and financial hardships being felt by people and businesses in Grimsby were real. Rather than show solidarity with the community facing real hardships, the G5 elected that they were not being paid enough.
Despite Vaine’s claims of it only being “a penny a month”, it was not. Even if it was, the sheer optics of accepting ANY pay increase while people were worried not only about the public health situation, but wondering if they were going to be able to make ends meet, are absolutely terrible.
Did the G5 Councillors act in the best interests of the community or did they simply say to residents “Show Me The Money”?