Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the city’s 10 councillors got a 3.8 per cent pay raise to begin 2022.
The boost in pay took effect Jan. 1 and means Stewart’s annual salary will jump from $178,800 last year to $185,594 this year, while councillors will see a bump from $88,515 to $91,878, according to information released from the city to Vancouver Is Awesome.
“Personally, I became a city councillor because I was committed to public service and not for the pay scale,” said Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung in an email Wednesday. “That said, you don’t want people who seek out the job for the money.”
Added Kirby-Yung: “You do want the role to be adequately compensated to attract good people to a difficult arena, and to ensure Vancouver council salaries are comparable to other cities.”
Council did not approve the increase but it is one that was set in motion several years ago by a previous council after an independent panel determined annual increases were warranted based on salaries of other Canadian councillors.
In Edmonton, for example, the mayor’s 2021 salary was $206,511 while councillors earned $116,672, according to the City of Edmonton’s website. As of Jan. 1, 2022, a Calgary councillor will earn $115,138 this year and the mayor, $203,795.
In Vancouver, pay increases kick in every Jan. 1.
Last year, the boost was 0.3 per cent. In 2020, it was 2.3 per cent and in 2019, 2.7 per cent.
Kirby-Yung pointed out that council took a voluntary pay cut of 10 per cent in April 2020 for the balance of the year in what was largely a symbolic gesture to offset huge revenue losses by the city related to the pandemic.
“I believe [we're] the only city or level of government to do so,” Kirby-Yung said. “I don’t think that was known by the broader public.”
A document on the City of Calgary’s website indicates council voted to freeze its pay in 2019, 2020 and 2021. That council’s increase this year was 1.60 per cent, which was based on an indicator called Alberta Average Weekly Earnings.
In Vancouver, increases have fluctuated over the years and have involved formulas that factor in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a separate calculation for the mayor’s salary, the average weekly wage for B.C. and data from Statistics Canada.
The 3.8 per cent hike this year represents the increase in the CPI for Vancouver for 12 months ending October 2021. The increase does not include expense allowances or compensation related to board member work at the Metro Vancouver agency.
Councillors also receive pay for duties as deputy mayor and duty councillor (monthly salary is $3,402 for both) and a monthly salary of $1,237 as acting mayor.
The city’s most recent statement of financial information showed the highest earning councillor in 2020 was Lisa Dominato at $99,257, followed by councillors Rebecca Bligh and Christine Boyle, both at $95,989.
The mayor finished 2020 at $170,999.
Councillors Adriane Carr and Jean Swanson provided responses via email Wednesday to receiving a 3.8 per cent pay raise this year.
Carr: “Despite the long hours, I love my work and consider myself lucky. I intend to use my extra income to increase my giving to charitable organizations and justice causes.”
Swanson: “This isn’t a huge issue to me. I think it does have an impact when the people making decisions have enough money to buy electric cars, take vacations, and buy houses, and at least some of the people they make decisions about don’t; on the other hand, you don’t want politicians to be in need. I try to even that out by keeping what the average Vancouver worker makes and donating the rest. But I don’t have a family to support and I live in co-op housing so am lucky that way.”
Stewart provided a brief response, saying: “Council pay levels are determined independently by a process in place since 2014 which is tied to the local Consumer Price Index. In 2022, council pay will remain roughly 25 per cent lower than Toronto, Edmonton or Calgary.”
Council spent 153 days and 474.3 hours in meetings this year.
The 3.8 per cent pay increase comes less than a month after a majority of council approved a 6.35 per cent tax increase.
Council’s first meeting of the new year is a public hearing scheduled for Jan. 18, followed by a general council meeting Jan. 25. This is council’s last term, with a municipal election set for October this year.