City council rejects pay reform in close vote
Following a heated discussion at its preparatory committee meeting August 29, city council voted that same evening to reject a proposal to pay some councillors more and others less.
In a vote that needed 12 to pass, plus the mayor’s consent, the motion was defeated with only 10 votes in its favour. Both councillors running for mayor voted against the pay change, as did all independent candidates not running for re-election.
Sitting mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin tabled the proposal, with independent incumbent candidate Daniel Champagne seconding the mayor’s proposal. All four Action Gatineau councillors voted in favour.
During the preparatory session, councillors discussed the proposal put forth by a committee formed to revise councillor and mayor remuneration. At issue was the gap between the lowest and highest paid elected officials, based on an overall perception that Gatineau councillors are poorly remunerated. The present pay gap is due to the additional amounts paid to councillors who take on extra responsibilities such as committee work or chairing commissions. These additional amounts range from 5, 10 and 15 per cent, depending on the level of additional time and expertise required for the extra responsibilities.
Mayor Pedneaud-Jobin told council during the preparatory meeting, “No councillor will take home under $80,000, and there is less of a gap between everyone,” adding, “the money comes from re-organizing the salaries, not from new money.” Council was not convinced.
Gilles Carpentier, councillor for Carrefour-de l’Hôpital and chair of the executive council, asked his fellow councillors if they understand equity in its most fair sense. “Equity means what exactly? Is it about being fair for councillors about what they (each) contribute to the city?” Further to Carpentier’s question, Marc Carrière, councillor for Masson-Angers, reminded council that sitting for public office is a service, as defined in the Quebec Act on Cities and Towns. Being a councillor isn’t an ordinary job, he said. Both councillors voted against the reform.
The mayor responded to objections, noting that pay changes take a long time to effect, so he urged approval of the reform. “I know not everyone is satisfied. But with this reform, we can all be less dissatisfied,” he added. Later that night, the proposal was defeated at the council meeting and will likely not come back to council until after the November 5 election. Pay differentials on council may thus become an election issue.