Toronto

Some councillors from smaller GTA municipalities making big bucks

Figures made public by GTA municipalities last month show a wide disparity in the salaries being paid to councillors in areas outside Toronto, with some making as little $20,000 a year, and others topping $200,000.

2 Mississauga-area councillors pulled in upwards of $200K in 2017

Mississauga and Region of Peel Coun. Nando Iannicca, left, earned more than $204,000 last year. That's more than Toronto Mayor John Tory was paid. (City of Mississauga/John Rieti/CBC)

Figures made public by GTA municipalities last month show a wide disparity in the salaries being paid to councillors in areas outside Toronto, with some making as little $20,000 a year, and others topping $200,000.

That gap has led one Toronto councillor to call on the province to regulate the pay of municipal politicians — including his own.

"I don't want to decide my salary; regrettably, I do have to decide my salary," Coun. Joe Mihevc told CBC Toronto. "It would be a much better world if we could have a third party adjudicate what that salary should be," he said.

Pickering Coun. Dave Pickles says he and his colleagues do full-time work. (Yan Jun Li/CBC News)

"What would be really helpful is some kind of provincial body that all councils across the province could appeal to to say, 'Do a fair assessment of the value of this work and what appropriate remuneration should be.'"

A Toronto city councillor's pay is about $112,000.

Mayor John Tory topped out at $192,503, according to his office. That's less than some 905 councillors took home last year. 

Pickering Coun. Kevin Ashe also sits on Durham Region council, which added about $54,000 to his annual pay last year. (Yan Jun Li/CBC News)

In neighbouring Pickering, one of the GTA's smaller cities with a population of about 92,000, councillors' annual base pay was  $35,317 last year.

But by adding duties at the regional government, pensions, benefits and board seats, councillors there boosted their pay to as much $144,000 in 2017.

Coun. Dave Pickles told CBC Toronto last week that that salary is a good deal for taxpayers.

Big budgets, big projects

"The total regional budget is about $1.3 billion,  so we deal with big projects, we deal with big budgets. So I don't think its out of line with what you'd expect in the private sector for such responsibilities and such budgets."

In addition to their political salaries, some councillors are continuing to work at the jobs they had before they went into politics.

In Pickering, Coun. Kevin Ashe made about $134,000 last year from his work as a councillor at both the local and regional levels. But he also still works at the job he held before he was elected.

"I have other employment; I wouldn't suggest it's full time but I do have the flexibility to allow myself to have two responsibilities," he said. 

The office for his non-political job is right across from city hall, he says, "so I'm lucky enough to be able to be in city hall most days, as well as at my other office."

He says the remuneration packages are justified and that the people of Durham are getting good bang for their buck.

Others making much less

"I think it's important that you pay people appropriately so you get professional people,"

Councillors at some municipalities with similar populations were making far less last year:  

In the nearby municipality of Clarington, which has roughly the same population as Pickering, councillors' base pay was about the same - $36,879. But Clarington regional Coun. Joe Neale took home far less municipal pay than Pickles last year, at $91,973.

Clarington Coun. Joe Neal says some councillors' paycheques are higher because they sit on municipal boards as well as council. (Ed Middleton/CBC News)

However, he pointed out that in Durham, some councillors sit on the board of Veridian, the local power utility.

"Some of that pays about $25,000, if you sit on that board," he said. "I think it's too much."

And in similarly-small MIlton, even councillors who also have a seat at the regional level made less than Pickering regional  councillors. Milton's top two earners made just over $98,000 last year.

Mississauga has biggest pay days

But all those salaries pale in comparison to what councillors in the largest 905 municipalities make.

Mississauga has the largest population outside Toronto's city limits, at about 781,000 people, and some councillors there are making significant incomes: Councillors Nando Iannicca and Sue McFadden both earned just over $204,000 last year, including salaries and benefits.

Car allowance too

All Mississauga city councillors started with a base pay of $86,900 - but added to that was about $21,000 in benefits, and a $17,500 annual car allowance. And since all 11 Mississauga councillors automatically win a seat on Peel Region's council too, another paycheque, about $65,000 in salary and benefits annually, is tacked on. As well, councillors can sit on other regional boards, like conservation authorities, that can boost their salaries by thousands more.

Neither Iannicca nor McFadden could be reached by CBC Toronto on Friday.

Brock Township has lowest pay in GTA

At the opposite end of the scale are the councillors who represent the GTA's smallest municipality, the Township of Brock, which boasts just 11,600 souls.

Councillors in Brock, which is in northern Durham Region,  started with a base pay last year of just $19,124.

Once optional benefits are added, Brock councillors' pay ranged between about $20,000 and $27,000. Brock's lone regional councillor, Ted Smith, made just under $90,000, once his pay from Durham Region was added to the mix, according to remuneration numbers released last month by all of the GTA's 29 councils.

GTA's lowest paid

Brock Township's Therese Miller had the distinction last year of being the lowest paid councillor in the GTA.

She cost taxpayers just $20,066 in 2017.

A retired municipal employee, Miller now divides her time between working as a Brock councillor and helping her husband run their 300-acre beef farm near Sunderland, Ont.

"I kind of look at politics like running your own family but on a much larger scale," she said last week, "because number one is budgeting, and balancing your dollars (against) what comes in."

Miller said that although she works for what most people would consider part-time pay, there are times, close to the monthly council meetings, when her duties require her attention full time.

Brock Township Coun. Therese Miller had the lowest salary in the GTA last year, at $20,066. (Therese Miller)

As well, she also helps run the farm. "I love haying, I love cutting hay, bouncing around on the tractor and listening to tunes," she said. "it's real satisfaction."

How does it compare to working in politics?

"It's at the opposite end of the spectrum."

About the Author

Michael Smee

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Michael Smee has worked in print, radio, TV and online journalism for many years. You can reach him at michael.smee@cbc.ca