John Walsh hired to examine the issue for elected leaders in Happy Valley-Goose Bay
© Derek Montague
Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook says that he and the rest of council is waiting for a report from John Walsh before making a decision on remuneration.
The Happy Valley-Goose Bay town council has hired a consultant to review councillor remuneration, which has some residents wondering if the community’s elected officials are looking for a raise.
During the Dec. 17 council meeting, the finance, administration and policy committee recommended hiring a consultant to look at councillor remuneration. The motion passed with all councillors, except Shannon Tobin, voting in favour.
In an interview with The Labradorian, Tobin said that he doesn’t think elected officials should have the ability to determine their own salaries.
“With me, in regards to getting any remuneration, or any kind of discussion about remuneration, I don’t think the politician should have the ability to decide whether or not they should … have a raise,” said Tobin.
“So when that was first faced with me, I was deadest against it and I would be deadest against it in any way, shape or form. I voiced my concerns at the council meeting and council made a decision. I will have to support that now, as the councillor code of conduct states.”
In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the mayor receives $14,000 per year, $12,000 for the deputy mayor, and the other councillors receive $10,000.
At the March 25 town council meeting, two concerned residents asked about the decision to hire a consultant. One of them was curious as to why, according to the Dec.17 minutes, Coun. Bert Pomeroy voted in favour of hiring a consultant, despite publicly stating he doesn’t support a raise in remuneration.
“What’s the point of hiring a consultant and paying them any amount of money, if you’re not going to accept their recommendations anyway?” asked the resident.
Pomeroy told The Labradorian that he supports having a review because of all the expenses that are included in remuneration, such as travel and sitting on committees.
“I certainly support doing the review because I don’t know if anybody knows exactly what councillors get paid,” said Pomeroy.
“We’re looking at the whole operation, trying to make it more effective. To say that we’re going to do a review because we want to get an increase, that’s not really a fair statement to say.
I didn’t get on council for the money, by no means. I got on because I wanted to try and make a difference in our community.”
During the March 25 meeting, Mayor Jamie Snook and other members of the council told residents that there are no increases to remuneration included in the 2014 budget.
An inside source has informed The Labradorian, however, that several councillors supported an increase in remuneration for 2014. But the review couldn’t get done in time for the budget, because the consultant became ill. With no review in hand to justify an increase, the idea was put on the backburner.
According to the source, the councillors in favour of a raise wanted to have a model that reflected Labrador City’s.
As of 2014, Labrador City’s mayor receives a base remuneration of $28,000, the deputy mayor receives $22,000, and the other councilor receives $16,000.
Snook denies that there was ever a consensus on council about raising remuneration, claiming that he and his fellow councillors are waiting for a report to be completed by the consultant, John Walsh.
“That’s not fair to say (there was a consensus) because we didn’t have a report, we don’t have the information,” said Snook.
“Throughout all the discussions that I was a part of, we didn’t have enough information to go on.”
At the March 25 meeting, Snook told the crowd that the report would cost the town less than $5,000. He then told the Labradorian that the cost is approximately $3,500. Snook could not say, however, if the town is responsible for paying the consultant for travel and expenses.
“The reality is, (remuneration) stayed the same and the council is getting advice on it,” said Snook.
When asked by The Labradorian if he, personally, supports an increase in remuneration, Snook didn’t answer directly.
“I support getting good information and sharing it with the public … we want the remuneration of council to be transparent,” said Snook.
Snook also claims that he and council have done a lot of things to save money on remuneration that the public hasn’t heard of.
According to Snook, the town used to allow councillors to bring their spouses on council trips once a year, with the municipality footing the travel expense. But now, that privilege has been revoked, along with other expenses that fall under councillor remuneration.
“We cut out a lot of travel (expenses),” said Snook.