Council's pay increase isn't the issue
By Arthur Weinreb
Monday, July 31, 2006
Last week, in a totally unsurprising move Toronto City Council voted to increase the salaries of its members. The increase is about 9% and will see the mayor earning $160,000 while councillors will take home $95,000.
What was unexpected in the vote of the usually predictable council was that the motion to increase their remuneration only passed by one vote. The vote would have been tied had Councillor Raymond Cho not spoken out against the salary increases and then left before the vote was held. Apparently Cho had better things to do -- attend a meeting in his ward about crime. And as we all know, you can't fight violent crime without meetings and interfacing and all that other feel good stuff. Apparently a bunch of cops with guns and bullets simply won't do it anymore.
The increased salaries of the mayor and council are hardly unreasonable. The cost to increase the salaries of the 45 members of city council is a drop in the bucket; a mere pittance compared to the billions of dollars that the city mothers spend every year, much of it wasteful and counterproductive. If Torontonians really want to complain about council's high spending they should concentrate on the money that is thrown into the bottomless pit of spending on the homeless; not the inconsequential amounts that are going to increase their salaries.
The Toronto Police Service always argues that they should be the highest paid police force in Canada because of what they have to deal with and there is some merit to this argument. While the OPP, when not lounging around beautiful downtown Caledonia are conducting blitzes on HOV lanes, Toronto police are confronting armed drug dealers and gang bangers. Toronto is Canada's largest city and we have "big city" problems that are simply not faced by smaller municipalities. Toronto's mayor and councillors, even after their increase, will be far from being the highest paid local politicians in Canada or Ontario. Their new salaries, when compared to other municipalities and the private sector, are far from unreasonable.
The notion that if council gets a 9% increase, all the city CUPE slackers will have to get the same increase doesn't automatically follow. The raise will make it more difficult to negotiate with the unions but that is one of things that council is getting the bigger bucks for. What the whining unions will say is nothing more than a red herring in the debate over the remuneration of city politicians.
What is lost in the outrage against the pay increase is that Toronto City Council did not vote to give "themselves" a raise. The increased salaries do not come into effect until 2007 when the new council that will be elected in November comes into power. The real argument that opponents of the increase are making is that the "present" mayor and council do not deserve a raise. While this is a good argument it presupposes that David Miller and the existing councillors will be returned to power in November. David Miller and his high-spending buddies on council will most likely be the mayor who starts earning $160,000 next year but you can hardly blame them for that.
The little yuppie socialists who will bike to the polls on election day and eagerly cast their votes for David Miller, Howard Moscoe, Paul Fletcher, Pam McConnell et. al. are not the problem. The problem is with those many Torontonians who don't feel it necessary to go and vote in what is "only" a municipal election. It is these people that will be responsible for the old guard getting re-elected with an increased salary and they will be the loudest complainers when it's "business as usual" at city hall.
If the voters really feel that David Miller and some or all of the present councillors are not worth the money that they will be paid, they should drag themselves to the polls next November and vote them out of office. But it seems that all of the critics who don't like the fact that council voted "themselves" a raise have already given up on the democratic process.
And that is the real problem facing the city ñ not how much the politicians will be taking home next year.