Edmonton mayor, councillors agree to freeze their wages for 2021 and 2022
Independent committee reviewed salaries, benefits during COVID-19 pandemic
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson and 12 city councillors agreed Monday their wages should be frozen for the next two years on recommendation from an independent committee.
The salary freeze is part of several changes proposed by the Independent Council Compensation Committee, which reviewed council's salaries, benefits and allowances.
Iveson said taking a wage freeze is a symbolic gesture and a practical move to reflect the current reality.
"Councillors living within the same kind of constraint that we've asked our employees to take through the zero-per-cent settlements that we've negotiated with many of our labour units," Iveson said.
"I think it's important for Edmontonians to know that their elected officials are enduring that same constraint."
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In 2020, the mayor was paid $206,500 and councillors $116,670.
With the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee was set up in February and asked to compile recommendations by the end of the year.
Phyllis Clark, chair of the five-member committee, said elected officials' salaries and benefits should reflect the impact COVID-19 is having on residents in the near and long term.
"We wanted to make sure that the economy and fiscal realities of the city were taken into account," Clark said.
"We also wanted to recognize the extraordinary time commitment that councillors put into their jobs, and the broadness and depth of responsibilities of municipal elected officials."
The committee's recommendations included a higher cap for transition pay.
Councillors leaving office should get an allowance equal to three weeks of pay for every year served to a maximum of 39 weeks, the committee recommended, up from the current cap of 36 weeks.
Coun. Scott McKeen suggested the transition allowance be higher, to a maximum of 48 weeks.
Some former city councillors have had a tough time returning to their previous professions, he noted.
"[They've] devoted tremendous amounts of life and lifespan — I would even argue — into this role, I don't think the transitional allowance reflects that enough."
Clark agreed the hours and effort councillors commit to the job are massive.
"I think people need to recognize that."
McKeen, a former news reporter and columnist with the Edmonton Journal, argued that a further increase is fair based on conversations he'd had with former councillors "who left the role — left the role in their 40s and 50s — and struggled to get back to where they were."
But council rejected McKeen's motion 9-4, with Sarah Hamilton, Moe Banga and Ben Henderson also voting in support of it.