Halt automatic raises for city officials and council, says Yellowknife councillor

Yellowknife Coun. Adrian Bell proposed to look at the possibility of disconnecting city officials and council's wages from inflation, and having a separate committee review salaries instead.

'I don't like the idea of having an automatic raise of any kind for council,' says Coun. Adrian Bell

Coun. Adrian Bell is proposing that City of Yellowknife's council and management's salaries be reviewed by an independent committee instead of it being automatically raised, tied to inflation. (CBC)

A Yellowknife city councillor is questioning the rising salaries of the mayor, city officials and councillors — which are automatically increasing yearly — and is proposing to introduce an independent committee to review wages instead.

"I don't like the idea of having an automatic raise of any kind for council," said Coun. Adrian Bell at a Municipal Services Committee meeting Monday, asking fellow councillors for input on his proposals before finalizing a motion to put them forward.

Bell introduced four proposals, mainly about how the city's budget deliberations are done and should be improved, and one proposal to disconnect the city's management and council's wages from inflation.

Currently, their wages will automatically rise yearly, based on whichever is lower — the rate of inflation or raises based on union negotiations, says Bell.

Bell added this is "a conflict of interest" because council negotiates with the union to determine raises for unionized employees.

The largest expense in the City of Yellowknife's 2018 budget is for wages and benefits, at $26.9 million. About $388,000 of that is budgeted for the mayor and councillors' salaries and benefits this year. That number is expected to increase to about $403,000 by 2020, according to the city's 2018 budget document.

Back in December, Bell questioned how the city's wages and benefits are increasing at a larger rate than population growth and inflation, in his personal blog.

Bell suggested Monday that a committee of non-elected members review councillors' wages and make recommendations for council to vote on.

"I like that better than automatic raises. I think it puts us on a more level playing field with voters in the community," Bell said.

Puts council in 'sticky situation,' says councillor

Coun. Julian Morse raised concerns about the proposal, saying that it opens council up for heavy criticism from the public like it did for the territory's MLAs last year. 

"It just puts politicians in a sticky situation," said Morse.

Morse also said he fears that reviewing and voting on councillors' wages puts an incentive on council to cut their pay, which may result in unfair compensation for the amount of work councillors put in. 

"It would make it, at that point, difficult to attract people to run for council," Morse said.

He said debating pay can cause a "hallabaloo" for council, and it could waste time.

"If we end up in a big political firestorm over our own pay every few years, I just don't see that as a productive discussion that council needs to be having or being concerned about," said Morse.

Coun. Shauna Morgan also asked what the new formula for determining wages would be.

Bell said the issue should be discussed further, and is hoping to file a motion.

With files from Jamie Malbeuf

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