Talkin’ Bout Remuneration (Part VI)

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, Part III at the first term of John Morgan and Part IV at Morgan’s second term. Part V found us still in Morgan’s second term. This week, in the sixth and final installment, we’ll look at Morgan’s third term.

 

John Morgan was re-elected to a third term as CBRM mayor in the fall of 2008.

Council changed somewhat as a result of this election, with five new members coming in and five — including a couple of the most obstreperous from the previous council — leaving. The changes inspire CBU Professor Tom Urbaniak to opine in the Cape Breton Post on 20 October 2008 that the new council may not be as “dysfunctional” and that he expects a “high level of policy debate.”

In a December 2009 op-ed piece for the Chronicle Herald, Urbaniak makes a suggestion for improving the quality of those policy debates, arguing that Nova Scotia mayors should give up their council chairs and instead join the debate. Chairing the meetings, Urbaniak said, prevents mayors — who are, in the end, just one of however many councilors on a council —  from making “substantive statements on policy and development.”

The suggestion is not taken up by CBRM Council. (But it’s never too late. Just sayin’.)

 

Council size

John Heseltine, Stantec. (Source: Stantec https://www.stantec.com/en/about-us/people/h/heseltine-john)

John Heseltine, Stantec. (Source: Stantec )

Having botched the boundary review it undertook for the 2008 elections (see Part V), the CBRM had to tackle the issue again in advance of the 2012 polls, so in the fall of 2009, Council awarded the consultancy Stantec a $200,000 contract to look into the questions of council size and boundaries.

Presenting to the Boundary Review Committee in April 2010, Stantec’s John Heseltine proposed a two-phase plan for the review. In Phase 1,  his firm would canvas public opinion to “obtain statistically valid public input on expectations of Council service and the preferred number of Councillors.” Having determined the number of councilors, Heseltine would then focus, in Phase 2, on working with the CBRM to draw appropriate electoral division boundaries. A report on the first phase was “expected to be available towards the end of June.”

In fact, the report was ready in time for the 15 June 2010 council meeting. Reporting on the vote in the Post on 17 June 2010, Chris Shannon noted that Stantec’s telephone survey collected 800 responses and the two focus-groups were “poorly attended.” (As in, five people went to them.) But Heseltine’s phone survey had revealed that 304 respondents (40.4%) preferred a council with 16 or more members while 448 respondents (59.6%) preferred a smaller council. Heseltine’s recommendation (based on public opinion and a number of other factors) was to reduce council from 16 to 12 members.

Councilor George MacDonald, seconded by Councilor Wes Stubbert, moved to accept Heselstine’s recommendation.

The motion was defeated 11-6.

Then Councilor Gordon MacLeod, seconded by Councilor Stubbert, moved to maintain 16 councilors. That motion carried.

In August 2010, Council adopted new electoral division boundaries that attempted to retain, as much as possible, the division between rural and urban districts.

In November 2010, the CBRM applied to the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board (UARB) to “confirm the present number of councillors and polling districts at 16, and to confirm the boundaries of the polling districts.”

 

UARB

The UARB held hearings on the application on 30 and 31 May 2011.

Seven sitting councilors testified at the meeting (some, like Mombourquette and Kim Desveaux, in favor of downsizing; others, like Darren Bruckschwaiger and Clarence Prince, in favor of maintaining the status quo.) Three other councilors submitted written comments in advance of the hearing. Two non-councilors also presented — Ken Jardine and former councilor Arnold Mombourquette (both favored downsizing).

The board issued its decision in July 2011, and since this is supposed to be a series about council remuneration, it’s worth noting that in that decision the UARB noted:

…CBRM councillors receive the second highest level of compensation among 49 responding municipal units (49 of 55) in the province, at just over $40,000 per councillor, behind only HRM.  The HRM and CBRM councils cost among the least of any in the province in per capita terms.

The UARB denied the CBRM’s application to retain 16 councilors, noting that:

…a strong majority of CBRM residents desire a reduced council size…Further, the polling results indicated a preference to eliminate several councillors, not just one or two.

Instead, the board concluded that “12 councillors and polling districts (plus the Mayor) is an appropriate council size for CBRM” and sent the municipality back to the drawing board to draft new polling district boundaries.

Which it did and which is why, since the 2012 municipal election, we’ve had a council of 12 — plus the mayor.

 

Thanks, but no thanks

Kim Desveaux (Source: Twitter https://twitter.com/KimDesveaux)

Kim Desveaux (Source: Twitter)

Just before the UARB decision came down, there was an interesting development directly connected to council remuneration. The Post reported on 17 June 2011 that Councilor Kim Desveaux had turned down a 2.2% salary increase (a cost-of-living adjustment which, as we’ve noted earlier, was — and still is — adopted automatically each year.)

Desveaux told the paper:

I’m satisfied with the salary I’m currently receiving.

And that’s where the pre-Clarke clippings’ trail goes cold.

But what a place to end.

 

 

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