British Columbia

If you live in B.C., here's how much your mayor and councillors make

While the proposed salary increases in Victoria and Revelstoke are immense, the vast majority of mayors and councillors have seen pay raises — albeit smaller ones — in the last two years.

Big city mayors make 6 figures, but for the vast majority the compensation is similar to a part-time job

The average salary for a mayor in B.C. is approximately $45,000, while the average salary for a councillor is around $20,000. (CBC)

Aside from being cities in B.C., not much unites Revelstoke and Victoria — one a resource and ski town in the Interior with 7,000 people, the other a coastal provincial capital with around 90,000 people.

But what unites them at the moment is a debate over whether local politicians should be paid more than they currently are. 

Much more.

"If we expect our mayor to work full-time, and you ... want the mayor to be at all these meetings and chairing meetings with ministers, we need to pay appropriately," said Revelstoke Coun. Cody Younker.

Younker put forward a proposal to raise the salary of councillors in Revelstoke over three years to $25,000 from $15,000, and the salary of Mayor Gary Sulz to $75,000 from $30,000. 

In Victoria, the public has been asked to weigh in on a possible increase to the salaries of councillors, from $45,384 to $70,100.

In both cases, the argument behind the proposal is the same — local leaders should be able to consider their role a full-time job. 

Part-time council gigs

CBC News analyzed the salaries for mayor and councillors in every municipality in B.C. 

Mayors in B.C.'s biggest cities make over $100,000, with the highest base salary going to Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley at $176,627.

But the average mayor in B.C. makes approximately $45,000 a year.

Councillors make more than $40,000 in just 21 of the province's 162 municipalities.

"The reality is that council members who rely on their council remuneration have a lot of difficulty making ends meet," said Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt, who put forward the proposal.

While Younker and Isitt are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they agree the relatively small compensation causes problems for younger councillors who often require second jobs. It's also a barrier to recruiting younger people to run in the first place.

"There's a lot of good people in town that want to run but they can't run because, at the end of the day, they can't support their families," Younker said. 

Isitt also said the role of a local politician had changed over the decades, requiring more active participation. 

"One hundred years ago maybe sanitation and water sewer and roads were were enough for some members of the public," he said.

"But what we see today is people concerned about child care. People want municipalities to be supportive of arts and culture. They want a high level of scrutiny of municipal expenditures."

'It's super contentious'

While the proposed salary increases in Victoria and Revelstoke are immense, the vast majority of mayors and councillors have seen pay raises — albeit smaller ones — in the last two years.

After the federal government removed a rule that allowed municipal politicians to claim one-third of their compensation tax-free, most cities and towns passed bylaws increasing pay so politicians wouldn't see a reduction in their take-home salary. 

Several municipalities took that opportunity to undertake a broader review of salaries, with many increasing pay beyond the tax difference. 

But that doesn't necessarily mean a constant upward creep in salaries is inevitable, because many people recoil at the idea of giving themselves more money. 

"I would probably not vote to give myself a raise. Quite honestly, it's super contentious," said Prince George Coun. Cori Ramsay.

Prior to being elected last year, the 32-year-old was on the city's advisory committee for determining a new salary for mayor and councillors.

Ramsay says balancing her $37,466 elected position with her second job is difficult — she's taken 26 unpaid days off this year because of council duties — but she won't be pushing for a raise.

"A lot of the city councillors [when this came up last year] said, 'I'm not in it for the money, I'm in it because I care about my community," she said. 

"Which is how I feel too."

About the Author

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now