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Toronto Star - Aug. 11, 2010 - By Royson James City Columnist -
Fair wage would earn Miller more, pay McCallion less
The politics surrounding the setting of city politicians’ salaries is such that Toronto councillors may never earn enough to catch up to the fat cats in neighbouring Vaughan and Mississauga.
Yes, Mayor David Miller, with the weighty responsibilities of presiding over Canada’s largest and most complex city, earns a salary of $167,800 — $500 less than the mayor of Hamilton.
And compared to Her Highness, Hazel McCallion the Queen of Mississauga, who hauls in $185,137, Miller should sue for non-support.
But is Miller underpaid? Comparatively, yes. Still, he’s paid a fair wage, if not an equitable one.
Mayor Miller would not bite this week when reporters tried valiantly to get his opinion on the appropriate compensation for councillors and mayors. But figures released by consulting firm HayGroup show the Toronto chief magistrate is either grossly underpaid, or his counterparts are taking their taxpayers to the cleaners.
A reasonable conclusion is the latter.
What are the good councillors of Mississauga doing to deserve $134,000 a year in salary? I once called them the most pampered and overpaid councillors in the land — and earned their ire. But it is the truth. Toronto city councillors don’t need to be paid like those in Mississauga. No. Carolyn Parrish and Nando and Pat and the gang need to be paid like Howard Moscoe and Giorgio and Case and Paula and the gang in Toronto.
Mississauga’s well-regarded mayor has so much time on her hands, and so few things to attend to, it would seem, that she personally gets her finger into every pot — including playing the role of fixer when development deals go bad; even deals that benefit her son’s company.
Could Toronto citizens pay their mayor $200,000 and do so without rancour and resentment? Maybe. Would $185,000 be palatable? Absolutely. But is Miller’s current salary a slap in the face? Hardly.
What is out of whack is the huge amount of change councillors, mayors and regional chairs pocket in the 905 regions where pay hikes are linked to inflation or increases negotiated by civic staff. Salaries climb up, up, up with little or no debate in the outer suburbs. Meanwhile, in Toronto, voting each wage increment is accompanied by a media frenzy and dissenting councillors.
City councillors deserve and are owed a decent wage. The job is a public calling, something most say they do not for the money, but to engage in public service. Unfortunately, it has become a kind of job-for-life, a job some do by rote, a sinecure that builds to the point where the councillors develop a sense of entitlement.
Impose term limits where councillors serve for a maximum 12 years and then move on, and the pressure for higher and higher wages might lessen.
It is easier to make a case for a salary hike for the Toronto mayor than the Toronto ward councillor. The former has serious responsibilities and burdens; the latter has a job that can consume 14 hours a day or four, with no effective monitoring.
Miller’s salary currently rests in the 46th percentile of mayors across the land. That means 54 per cent make more than him. Toronto councillors rest in the 83rd percentile. Only 17 per cent are better off.
Using other variables — number of constituents served, ward size and cost per constituent — Toronto city councillors compare favourably. The mayor? Behind on most counts.
All this means Toronto’s next mayor is in for a raise. Councillors will tread water.
Unless, of course, the new chief views all this as an abominable picking of the taxpayers’ pocket.
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