Most of the electoral area directors in the Cowichan Valley Regional District want a pay raise.
At the CVRD’s special electoral area services committee on Jan. 11, directors voted to recommend to the board that $100,000 be added to the district’s 2023 budget to increase the remuneration for the nine electoral area directors.
The current pay for electoral area directors, who haven’t had a pay bump in more than six years other than cost-of-living increases, is approximately $35,000 a year.
At a board meeting in 2020, the district’s director services select committee recommended that remuneration for the electoral area directors be increased by $11,167.
But as the COVID-19 crisis was just beginning, a decision was made to postpone the discussion.
Jesse McClinton, director for Saltair/Gulf Island, said that to him, salaries should reflect the type of people that are wanted at the table.
He asked if it’s only people that are retired or live in a household with a second income.
“I think [our current] remuneration severely limits the type of people that might step forward into these positions,” McClinton said.
North Oyster/Diamond director Ben Maartman replied that everyone who is at the table is who he wants to see there.
“I look at the new members on this board and I say we got good people here, so did our remuneration play a part in that?” he asked.
“I say they’re sitting here and they weren’t expecting to have more money. One of the things I hear is that we will have different or better people or more opportunities for people if you increase the amount you pay them, but I don’t see the evidence for that.”
Maartman said it’s up to members of the CVRD’s board to show leadership at a time when they are trying to cut the projected property taxes in 2023 down from the approximately 12.19 per cent that has been forecast.
“The leadership starts here,” he said.
Cobble Hill director Mike Wilson said he has no objection to a pay raise, but the 33 per cent increase that is being discussed is untenable.
“No other company or organization in Canada, as far as I know, has awarded themselves a 33 per cent raise,” he said.
“I will vote for a raise as along as it’s reasonable and in line with what everybody else in the country has been awarded.”
Kate Segall, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, said she sees a lot of privilege around the table related to having a pension, another income source and/or a partner that’s willing to take on the majority of the financial strain for families.
She pointed out that the living wage in the Cowichan Valley has risen substantially in recent years to $23.53 an hour, or $45,000 a year.
“I know there can be an argument over whether this is a full-time job or not,” Segall said.
“I know, for me, when I entered this job I believed that it would be 20 hours a week. But I certainly have had to step back from my own nutrition consulting business and my volunteer responsibilities. There are regular meetings plus prep, committees, the relationships with our community groups, individuals, First Nations and social media. It’s a lot of time and I think for this to be done well, it’s a full-time job.”
Youbou/Meade Creek director Karen Deck said the board should look like the wider community that it serves.
She said the board needs to also represent those who don’t have enough money to give what that wish they could to the community.
“I agree to a living wage increase [for area directors],” Deck said.
Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls director Ian Morrison agreed that the living wage has increased considerably and he’s in favour of a pay increase.
“I’m in favour of including this as budget matter, and we will have a full debate at the board table for sure,” he said.
The motion to recommend adding $100,000 to the budget for pay raises passed, with Wilson and Maartman opposed.