No salary top up for Cornwall mayor: ‘I don’t want this,’ Clement says

Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement. (Cornwall Newswatch/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Despite a push by a couple of councillors to top up the mayor’s salary, the idea was voted down Monday night.

“I have indicated to all of you that I do not agree with this increase. I don’t want it and I did not ask for it. I don’t want this,” Mayor Bernadette Clement emphatically stated at Monday’s council meeting.

The mayor said she was backing up what she told councillors by email over the weekend and posted on her Facebook page on Friday.

She says the cost of inflation increase is sufficient. Coun. Elaine MacDonald disagreed with the mayor’s assessment that her salary was adjusted, saying cost of living increases “kind of goes with your Canadian citizenship” and that she was “suffering” from losing her tax exemption on part of her salary.

The financial help idea was first put forward by Coun. Syd Gardiner two weeks ago to find some way of compensating the mayor for losing her federal one-third tax exempt status on her salary, which happened to all elected officials.

Councillors had their salary adjusted in August to make up for the loss but the mayor’s salary wasn’t dealt with at that time.

The options included maxing out the mayor’s contribution limit to an RRSP to a full 18 per cent of her annual salary (about $9,900) or a one-time increase in salary of $8,000.

A couple of councillors – Elaine MacDonald and Glen Grant – said changing the compensation was about the position and not about the person in the chair right now.

“Whatever decision we make stays with us for generations,” MacDonald said. “We’re not just making decisions that’s going to affect Bernadette Clement. We are making decisions that will affect the Mayor of Cornwall ad infinitum.”

Coun. Todd Bennett said the arguments were not valid because when council dealt with one-third tax exemption for councillors, those salaries were well below the provincial average. That’s not in the case with the mayor’s position.

Even though he acknowledged that he was being “hit in the forehead with a sledgehammer” with the message from the mayor she didn’t want the money, Coun. Syd Gardiner seemed insistent that she get money somehow saying that “we need to do it in a way that will help her.” He suggested it be referred to budget, but that move was defeated.

Mayor Bernadette Clement currently makes $55,020, plus benefits (dental, long term disability and life insurance), a $160 per month car allowance and an honorarium for sitting on the police board. As of two weeks ago, her salary is now pegged to the consumer price index and will be roughly $58,387 by 2022.

The final vote on the salary increase was 7-4. Here’s how councillors voted on salary increase – the option of a one-time $8,000 top up:

Yes – Claude McIntosh, Elaine MacDonald, Glen Grant, Eric Bergeron

No – Syd Gardiner, Dean Hollingsworth, Carilyne Hebert, Maurice Dupelle, Todd Bennett, Justin Towndale, Bernadette Clement