Kelowna, B.C. city council finalizes pay hike in close vote – Okanagan |

With a close vote of 5 to 4 on Monday, Kelowna, B.C.,  city council has formally given itself a big pay hike — 15 per cent for the mayor, bringing the salary up to just over $145,000, while councillors will receive a 30-per cent raise and will now make about $58,000.

“This is not an easy discussion,” said Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas right after the vote. “It would have been an easy discussion…it would have been done many years ago.”

Public feedback prompted the pay raise to be phased in with the full amount coming into effect January 2025, instead of one large raise being implemented right away.

The pay hike follows a recent review of a dozen B.C. municipal councils of like-sized cities, with Kelowna second from the bottom when it came to the mayor’s salary and dead last for council remuneration.

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“I really see this as a move for equity and accessibility in this space and unfortunately, it hasn’t been done in the past, so now we’re coming in last,” said Coun. Loyal Wooldridge.

“The demands on what we’re dealing with now is very different than 30 years ago. We are dealing with extremely complex social files. We’re dealing with extremely complex development files, and to do this job properly, you can’t be working another full-time job to supplement it. I tried to do it. I had to sell my business to do this full-time.”

The four councillors who voted against the pay hike were Mohini Singh, Ron Cannon, Rick Webber and Gordon Lovegrove.

Cannon supported the pay hike when it came before council on March 25, but when his motion to defer the pay raise until after the 2026 municipal election was voted down, he joined the three in voting against it.

“I would propose to move to defer the proposed council remuneration policy,  direct the city manager to establish an independent council compensation committee of community-minded citizens to review council salary and report back to council in early 2026, with the revised salary recommendation for mayor and council that would come into effect with the newly-elected 2026 council,” Cannon said.

Click to play video: 'Taxpayers Federation critical of council’s pay hike'

Taxpayers Federation critical of council’s pay hike

Lovegrove also put forward a motion to take out the opt-out clause that was added into proposed remuneration bylaw for councillors who didn’t feel comfortable accepting the raise.

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“I’m actually concerned, believe it or not about the opt out clause,” Lovegrove said. “I think it is degrading a team that has been working really effectively getting lots done for folks, keeping our tax rates to a minimum, and I want it to be an all-or-nothing.”

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Singh echoed the sentiment.

“I’m just not comfortable in taking such a big increase,  such a big raise,” Singh said.  “It doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t like the opt-out after clause as well. I don’t want to see divisions on our council over this issue.”

But Lovegrove’s proposed amendment of  scratching out the opt-out clause was also voted down.

While Kelowna pushes ahead with the raise, in B.C.’s capital, where a similar pay hike was proposed, Victoria city council has pushed the pause button following public backlash.

“We heard from a lot of members of the community that they felt blindsided by the decision,” said Victoria councillor Jeremy Caradonna. “But what’s interesting is that what I heard from a lot of people was it’s not about the pay. A lot of people would say, look, you probably are working a full-time job and it’s probably worth $65,000 a year, but you have to get the process right.”

Victoria council has now asked the city manager to create an independent task force made up of a cross section of community leaders to take a look at the remuneration and recommend what council do.

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“It’s a completely antiquated system that just triggers a lot of anger and discontent from the public,” Caradonna told Global News.

For that reason, the Victoria councillor believes pay raises for municipal politicians should be in the hands of the province.

One of the things I’ve learned over the last couple of weeks is that there are some provinces — I want to say Saskatchewan or Manitoba — where the mayor just makes two-thirds of the pay of an MLA and then councillors make half of that and so it takes it out of our hands. It’s not politicized. It’s just in provincial law,” Caradoona said.

He added that cities like Victoria and Kelowna have grown exponentially in recent years and with that comes big city issues that are time-consuming to deal with and often a full-time job.

“We’ve got homelessness, mental health, addictions, crime, we’ve got climate action, we’ve got all sorts of things that are going on and a lot of  that work has been downloaded to us by the province,” Caradonna said.

It’s work that at least in Kelowna will now offer higher pay, unless councillors decide to opt out of the pay raise.

Click to play video: 'BIV: Negative reasons for B.C.’s high salary growth'

BIV: Negative reasons for B.C.’s high salary growth

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