Talkin ‘Bout Remuneration (Part III)

Editor’s Note: Mayor Cecil Clarke’s contention that discussing council remuneration in camera (and treating elected officials as “personnel”) is a longstanding CBRM practice sent me scuttling to the “CBRM Mayor and Council” clippings file at the McConnell library, to research some of the remuneration (and related) issues council has dealt with over the years. Part I covered the very first pay controversy, which pre-dated the official launch of the CBRM. Part II looked at some of controversies from the terms of John Coady and David Muise and now in Part III we consider the first term of John Morgan.

 

In a fascinating development in the history of mayor and council remuneration in the CBRM, John Morgan won the mayoral election in 2000 but did not spend any of his paychecks as mayor until May of 2001.

Reporting on the situation in the Cape Breton Post on 25 May 2001, Chris Hayes wrote that the mayor hadn’t spent any of his salary since the October election “while waiting for the [salary] review that was among his election promises.”

Morgan’s money was deposited in a separate account until the consulting firm KPMG completed its review, which it did that month, “recommending the $83,000 a year paid Morgan’s predecessor.”

KPMG also recommended the mayor’s salary be increased annually, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and that the mayor should be entitled to the same standard benefit package — including the pension plan — available to confidential CBRM employees. (KPMG noted the mayor did get the standard benefit package with the exception of a pension plan and long-term disability).

 

Regular raises

The Post‘s Laura Jean Grant picked up the story in June 2001, under the headline, “Mayor, councillors receive raises,” noting:

Without any debate on the issue Cape Breton Regional Municipality councilors voted unanimously in favour of a policy which will see the politicians receive an annual raise.

The vote came during a meeting of council Wednesday.

The remuneration policy, prepared by the audit committee, calls for the current salaries of the mayor, deputy mayor and councillors to increase in accordance with the consumer price index.

Mayor and council, Grant reported:

…will also become eligible for the defined contributions pension plan and benefit plan offered by the CBRM.

In addition, council changed its expense plan:

Council members will now have the option of claiming per diem expenses for meals to a maximum of $50 daily instead of following the current policy of submitting invoices or receipts. As for travel expenses, councillors will now receive the per kilometre rate used by the NS government.

 

Amendment

But a few months later, on 5 November 2001, Morgan was trying to cool council’s jets, as the Post‘s Chris Hayes reported:

Morgan will ask council to limit its pay increase in any year to the lowest wage increase for any group of municipal employees, instead of simply raising it by the CPI for NS, as council agreed in a vote earlier this year.

“The mayor’s annual salary is $83,000. The deputy mayor makes $35,000 and councilors receive $30,000. Morgan sought an independent review of the mayor’s salary which recommended it be raised annually by the CPI.

Council’s goal was to take the salary issue out of the political arena, Morgan said.

During the 20 November 2001 Council Meeting, Deputy Mayor Arnie Mombourquette called on council to approve the mayor’s suggestion (which was, apparently, the audit committee’s suggestion):

…that the Council Remuneration Policy as approved by Council on June 27th be amended as follows:

“The remuneration amounts will be increased annually in accordance with the lesser of the Nova Scotia Consumer Price Index, or the lowest negotiated wage increase by a CBRM Bargaining Unit.”

Mombourquette noted that the increase would not take effect until 1 April 2002 and that councilors “have an option whether or not to take an increase.”

The motion passed, with only Councilors Paruch and Mitchell voting against it.

The clippings file then falls silent on questions of remuneration until 2 March 2004, when the Post notes that council, in keeping with the policy approved in 2001, had received a 2.5% increase in 2003-2004 and was about to receive another 2.5% increase for 2004-2005.

 

Back to the polls

Elections were held in the fall of 2004 and Morgan was returned to office with 80% of the vote, defeating Dan Fraser, the former chair of the Joint Action Group looking into tar pond cleanup.

Shortly after that, all hell breaks loose.

But that’s a story for next week.

 

 

 

The Cape Breton Spectator is entirely reader supported. Please consider subscribing today!