(Victoria council/City of Victoria website)

Over the past few weeks, Victoria has been embroiled in a discussion about how much councillors get paid each year for the job they perform.

The debates were sparked after councillor Ben Isitt proposed that council members receive a 50% pay hike bringing their annual salary from approximately $45,000 to over $70,000.

See also: 86% Victoria city survey respondents don’t want council members to get pay raise

After an online survey that asked Victorians whether they approved of this hike, a whopping 86% said they did not.

In response, Isitt published a statement on his Twitter account calling the survey an “unscientific questionnaire of self-selected residents”, and recommended reducing the amount of duties taken on by councillors to reflect the part-time pay scale.

However, as it turns out, Isitt is one of two council members who receive over $20,000 per year in addition to his $45,384 annual salary for boards and committees he is appointed to by council.

Boards, committees, commissions, and remunerations

In addition to their duties on council, city councillors are appointed to a multitude of external boards, committees, and commissions in their capacity as public servants.

The vast majority of these advisory positions are unpaid and strictly performed on a volunteer basis, like the Greater Victoria Public Library Board, the Tourism Victoria Board of Directors, the Airport Consultative Committee, and the Victoria Heritage Foundation.

However, members of the Capital Regional District (CRD) Board of Directors, and a select few other committees receive renumeration for their work.

Committees and boards that pay their members include the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST), Victoria Regional Transit Commission, Board of Cemetery Trustees of Greater Victoria, and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

For most of these positions, appointments are made on a 2-year basis with new councillors appointed to the roles in 2021-2022.

We’ve combed through the financial reports of each of these organizations to bring you a breakdown of how much each appointed councillor received for their work on advisory boards in 2018.

Breakdown of remunerations:

According to the 2018 CRD Statement of Financial Information, councillor Ben Isitt received a total of $23,387 last year for his role as a member of the CRD board of directors and the Regional Water Supply Commission.

The same statement shows that councillor Geoff Young received $25,816 for being a member of the CRD board of directors, Regional Water Supply Commission, and the Royal and McPherson Theatres Society Advisory Committee.

Young also received a stipend of $400 for attending committee meetings held by the Capital Regional Emergency Service Telecommunications (CREST). For his role on the Victoria Regional Transit Commission until February 2019, he received $600. This brings Geoff Young’s total additional income for 2018 to around $26,816.

The council appointed board member for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, Laurel Collins, has since left her position to represent Victoria as an MP in Ottawa.

According to GVHA communications manager, Brian Cant, their 13 board members received 1.3% of the corporation’s growth revenue in 2018.

All together, this amounted to $186,801 last year which Cant says is not distributed evenly. He was not able to reveal how much individual board members received as remuneration due to privacy policies.

As an alternate member of the CRD board of directors, councillor Marianne Alto received $13,093. Councillor Charlayne Thornton-Joe served in the same position from January to October, and was also on the Regional Housing Trust Fund Commission – she received $200. This discrepancy most likely is a result of differences in the number of meetings attended by each councillor.

Councillor Sarah Potts is on the board of Cemetery Trustees of Greater Victoria which pays members $150 per meeting. In 2019 Potts attended 9 meetings, earning her $1,350 for that position.

For his role as a member of the CRD board of directors, CRD Arts Commission, and Royal and McPherson Theatres Society Advisory Committee, councillor Jeremy Loveday received $3,724 in 2018.

Finally, councillor Sharmarke Dubow attended one Victoria Regional Transit Commission meeting for the fiscal year ending in March 31st 2019, for which he received $150. He was appointed to the commission in February 2019.

Based on these calculations, here is what each councillor earns (approximately) in total per year:

  • Geoff Young: $72,200
  • Ben Isitt: $68,771
  • Marianne Alto: $58,477
  • Jeremy Loveday: $49,108
  • Sarah Potts: $46,734
  • Charlayne Thornton-Joe: $45,584
  • Sharmarke Dubow: $45,534
  • Laurel Collins: unknown

It is important to note that these figures will change as different councillors get appointed to different roles for 2021 and 2022.

However as CRD Board of Director members are appointed for four year terms, Isitt’s annual salary is unlikely to change, while the others’ will.

Council responds

In his original statement, Ben Isitt claimed that councillors work 40-85 hours per week on council-related duties.

Responding to a Victoria Buzz email inquiry into whether or not these hours include board and committee work, Isitt attached a report listing time allotments for councillor duties and stated in an email that “the time estimate in the attached report is based on City of Victoria Councillor duties” and does not include work for external boards.

However, the attachment in question allots 5-10 hours per week for “Participating on Boards and Commissions as appointed by Council”:

(Submitted)

When asked about this point, he clarified in a further email that that particular bullet point was in reference to time requirements serving on Boards and Commissions where no remuneration is provided.

Isitt serves on the Airport Consultative Committee, and city advisory bodies like Urban Food Table, Honorary Citizens Committee, Active Transportation Advisory Committee, Seniors’ Task Force, City Family, and Neighbourhood Liaisons – all of these positions receive no extra remunerations.

Councillor Geoff Young serves on a similar number of advisory bodies and external committees. When asked about his thoughts on the subject, he presents a vastly different view.

“I have never kept track, nor do I think ‘hours spent’ is a good measure of effectiveness.  CRD and some boards pay for meeting attendance, some do not,” Young states in an email to Victoria Buzz.

“I think one might also argue that trained, experienced and effective people who have proved their value in other full-time jobs or businesses may produce better results working part-time than people whose best job is ‘professional city councillor’ working full time. Councillors are supposed to be judging policies, not administering the city.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has expressed that she favours a third party (or a citizens’ committee) review of all councillor responsibilities and remunerations to take place in 2021 as per the city’s strategic plan.

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