Cornwall council passes pay increases totalling 32 per cent through 2021

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Cornwall city council has passed a veteran city councillor’s plan for pay increases totalling nearly 32 per cent through 2021 in order to bring Cornwall more in line with comparable municipalities.

Coun. Elaine MacDonald proposed an immediate adjustment of nearly 11 per cent ($1,722 increase on the current pay of $16,249) to make up for the federal government’s elimination of the one-third tax exemption for municipal salaries.

The second part of the equation is yearly pay increases of $1,343 in 2019, 2020 and 2021, resulting in a councillor’s salary topping out at $22,000 by the end of the council term. The increases would be 7.47, 6.95 and 6.5 per cent in each year.

MacDonald called the current base pay “inadequate and flawed. I believe we work..and we work hard!” She called her plan a “multi-year fix.”

“If we can’t be fair about ourselves, this affects the value of the work we do,” she said.

“We need to be fair to ourselves,” Coun. Syd Gardiner said.

According to MacDonald’s plan for council, the average councillor wage in Ontario is $23,372.

“I think councillors are grossly underpaid for the amount of work we’re doing,” Coun. Eric Bergeron added. Like others on council, he believes it will bring more young people out to run for election. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about making half of what they do in Belleville ($30,000).”

Bergeron added that he believed the mayor is also underpaid, though it wasn’t addressed in the proposal.

Coun. Maurice Dupelle said he couldn’t support the pay increases. “I hate to give ourselves a much greater wage increase than our municipal employees,” he said.

“I didn’t come in looking for a wage,” Coun. Justin Towndale said. He said he was having difficulty coming to terms with a wage increase. Towndale abstained from the vote.

“I don’t think we should be discussing our salaries,” Coun. Todd Bennett said. “The only thing I don’t agree with (the proposal) is we’re doing it to ourselves,” suggesting the increase should be for the next council.

Mayor Bernadette Clement said she supported the increase but there needs to be “serious discussions” about the size of council – in order to have a more cost-effective municipal government.

Final vote for pay increases:
Yes – Claude McIntosh, Elaine MacDonald, Syd Gardiner, Dean Hollingsworth, Carilyne Hebert, Glen Grant, Eric Bergeron, Bernadette Clement
No – Maurice Dupelle, Todd Bennett
Abstain – Justin Towndale