Mount Allison students tossed the three Tantramar mayoralty candidates a financial hot-potato on Monday during an all-candidates forum organized by MASU, the university’s students’ union.
Candidates Andrew Black, Shawn Mesheau and Bonnie Swift were asked if they supported new municipal salary levels that would triple the pay that members of Sackville Town Council are now receiving.
Table: Salary comparisons
“Wow” replied Andrew Black with a chuckle.
“I’ve been on council for six years now and in that time, I think it’s been five times that the issue of remuneration has come before council,” he said.
“Every time it came before council it was defeated and the reason for that is because the argument was that it shouldn’t be about money, it should be about doing something for your community.”
Black said there was another side to that coin.
“We need to have some form of remuneration so that you could do the job effectively and also have more people be interested in running — it’s a lot of work being on council.”
He pointed out that the new salary levels came from the province through the transition facilitator as part of municipal reform.
Black indicated that he didn’t necessarily approve of the huge pay increase, but noted the new salaries did not include the health, dental and life insurance benefits that members of Sackville Town Council now receive.
“So really in the end, it’s about a 50% increase,” he concluded.
Shawn Mesheau explained that the province provided the transition advisory committee with salary templates including one from New Brunswick’s Association of Francophone Municipalities.
“What was decided upon was to look at that template from the Francophone Association and look at different areas — population, tax base, [government] services that are being provided,” he said, adding that the advisory committee told the province it would be an opportunity to set a level playing field for all municipalities.
“It’s something that councils won’t touch with a 10-foot pole,” Mesheau said as the audience laughed, adding that pay levels reflect the amount of time members of council put in.
“As the current sitting mayor, I can put 25 to 30 hours very easily into a week on top of my part-time job.”
He said that although the province did not end up providing consistent pay levels for all municipalities, this is what’s in place for Tantramar.
“Let’s hope it’s satisfactory in order to move us forward,” he concluded.
Bonnie Swift said that although she was not familiar with the process for deciding on the pay increases, she had thoughts about them.
“I was talking to a young man who’s working two part-time jobs supporting a family and he said, ‘I would love to run for municipal government, but I would have to give up one of my part-time jobs,'” Swift said, adding that for people living paycheque to paycheque adequate compensation is crucial.
Without it, she said, the municipality would be shutting out large numbers of people from participating in local politics.
“There are a lot of things to consider,” she said.
“We want to draw everybody in who wants to run for a council position or a mayoral position, but they have to be able to do that and live, so that’s really important,” Swift concluded.
Current Sackville benefits package
Note: Sackville Treasurer and Acting CAO Michael Beal supplied the following information about the benefits package that members of Sackville Town Council are now receiving:
Members of council are currently eligible to join the town’s health plan. Benefits for each sub-group in our plan varies and each of those costs varies as well.
The subgroup that covers the mayor and councillors includes life insurance up to age 65, health (which covers prescription drugs and other services, i.e. physio) and also dental. For councillors over 65 , their life insurance benefit is reduced and if they are over 75, it is eliminated.
The current overall cost for a member of council who is less than 65 and on the plan with full coverage, would be $560.26 or $6,723.12 per year. This is the 2022 rate for this subgroup and rates are adjusted annually based on many factors.
Honestly, there is not enough money in their fund to pay me to do a job that involves working with the Agenda of this government. I cannot be bought… I guess that’s why I am so unpopular around here… I will actually oppose every single corrupt thing they do and I do it for NO PAY.
Money well spent.
Some people are so broke they can only pay attention.
People, people what are you thinking? The Minster Daniel promised Higgs he was willing to jump into the Lion’s Den of inefficient local government. Problems often have a way of eating our lunch, especially when we try to handle them alone like Minster Allain. In the case of the municipalities, Daniel was supposed to be the lunch, but our local councilors told the citizens to keep their mouth shut and trust in big government.
THERE IS NO MONEY. If there is any it is savings, that will only appear on paper. Amalgamation of the school districts were to save five million. The very first year Lawarence Bezeau of UNB went to the auditor general and found that instead of a gain of five million there was a loss of five million a year that continues to this day. The most recent figures of savings and expenses at central offices and planning commissions etc. ballooned especially when wage hikes, four-day weeks, travel, insurance and health plans, communication, and new infrastructure such as rentals and renovation costs. Minster Allain ignoring inflation announced that the Town of Tantramar will have a package from Fredericton to, “provide, city, towns, and villages more stability, predictability and transparency, allowing them to budget over a five-year period.” (Telegraph Journal 22-11-17.) Dorchester alone has a big bill for the RCMP (pop 600) of $200,000, plus fire, plus roads, sidewalks, even new multimillion dollar water well.
Getting the picture.
The mayor Mesheau didn’t help by saying we have a billion dollars and 9,000 people to service at a cost that is twice that, if you look at other centralized districts actual expenses.
You knew the Minister wasn’t listening. Right from the start there was little accountability when provincial officials ($1000 a day carpet baggers) through a highly sophisticated provincial hegemony control all matters including the processes that are important to citizens. There will be little stability and cohesiveness in Tantramar for real financial funding that one could call mutual assured support. Two old municipal preventatives at provincial municipal conferences, the well-respected Raymond Murphy in the north and the quixotic Wayne Feindel wanted reform at the top in Fredericton because we believed that empowered citizens who live in local communities are the best to get us through the challenging circumstances beyond our control.
A little research will help you vote, not for those who proclaim new hope, but instead pick down-to-earth candidates who know what a buck is worth.
Back in the day behind my mayor’s seat in the Village of Dorchester was a framed cartoon given to me by a former student that basically made it clear that the buck stopped with me.
GET OUT AND VOTE
Voting is consenting to be governed in this system that is corrupt to the core and only getting more bureaucratic Wayne.. Why does South Eastern Regional Service Commission need so much money and more every year and why was Bruce Phinney the only one to question their nonsense and then the only one to be attacked so viciously. If voting made any difference at all they would make it illegal. Looking back in time at what was is not helpful; looking ahead you will see a ‘technocracy’ being built that is not the fault of the people [so please stop referring to them as brain dead New Brunswickers Wayne] — no one has any say about the framework and Agenda in play.
“So really in the end, it’s about a 50% increase,” said Black.
If candidate Black were right here, then current benefits would be valued at about $8,000 per councillor, and $15,000 for the current mayor.
He isn’t right. As the article states, benefits are currently worth $6,723.12/yr. Factoring that into current salaries, the new salaries are more like a 100% increase (or doubling) for councillors and over 100% for mayor.