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City council salaries jump in Richmond

Mayor Malcolm Brodie’s salary climbed 7.8 per cent last year and city council’s expenses tripled, according to financial documents revealed Monday at city hall.

Richmond’s five-term mayor collected $117,165 in 2012. That’s a 46 per cent increase over 2006, when council approved an initial salary hike and regular pay raises based on inflation and what politicians elsewhere are making. Brodie earned just $80,082 then.

City councillors also got more money last year. Their salaries rose 5.2 per cent to $54,992—a 72-per-cent increase in seven years.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Price Index—an indicator of changes in prices of goods and services—rose just 1.3 per cent in Metro Vancouver last year, and 2.3 per cent the previous year.

“You’d be hard pressed to find people in Richmond who would say council is doing a 72 per cent better job than in 2006, or the mayor doing a 46 per cent better job,” said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Every three years, the city compares Richmond council’s salaries with those of Burnaby, Surrey, Coquitlam, Delta and Abbotsford, according to Mayor Brodie. Richmond council members’ salaries are then raised to put them among the top 25 per cent paid civic politicians. But Bateman said such comparisons are of a false market.

“It’s not like municipalities are competing for councillor talent. You don’t have the option to move over to Delta council if you can get a better gig.”

Bateman suggested a panel of average citizens could better determine council’s wages, which are continually being pushed up by comparisons.

“It’s almost irrelevant what other jurisdictions pay. The only time you ever hear it touted—what other jurisdictions pay—is when it’s higher than what your city pays and your councillor wants more money,” he said.

Brodie said remuneration should be fair, and about the only way to determine that is to consider cost of living and the wages of other councils.

“Each city will have its own challenges, and from time to time, each city will have the hardest amongst the group,” he said. “I just don’t know that there is a a satisfactory way to do it.”

Elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, politicians recently voted to cut their own wages. Effective July 1, Surrey school trustees will earn $200 less per year, to fall in line with the current 0.8 per cent drop in the Consumer Price Index.

In addition to salary, Richmond’s mayor earned $8,750 in benefits in 2012 and charged taxpayers $10,766 for expenses.

Together, city council racked up $50,576 in expenses in 2012, a year when most civic politicians travelled to Xiamen, China for the signing of a sister city agreement with Richmond.

Behind Brodie, Couns. Harold Steves and Bill McNulty were council’s top spenders. Both councillors made the Xiamen trip, and also travelled to the Japanese cities of Wakayama—a longtime sister city of Richmond—and Onagawa, a tsunami-ravaged village that received donations from local fundraising efforts.

Former councillor Sue Halsey-Brandt received a $43,066 retiring allowance last year. Halsey-Brandt chose not to run again in 2011 after serving 10 years on council. Greg Halsey-Brandt, a former mayor and MLA who returned for a single term as a councillor in 2008, received a retiring allowance of $15,845.

2012 city council expenses

•Mayor Malcolm Brodie: $10,766

•Coun. Harold Steves: $10,049

•Coun. Bill McNulty: $8,871

•Coun. Chak Au: $6,498

•Coun. Linda McPhail: $6,479

•Coun. Ken Johnston: $3,629

•Coun. Derek Dang: $3,536

•Coun. Linda Barnes: $503

•Coun. Evelina Halsey-Brandt: $246

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