Wrong example

One cannot fault the commitment and effort town council has put in over the past four years. But whether or not you think council is under-paid, this is no time to vote for a raise.
At a special committee of the whole meeting last Thursday, which featured initial discussion on the 2011 budget, council rightly mused about the need to keep a lid on user fee hikes for residents, perhaps limiting them to a cost-of-living adjustment at most. There also was talk, given the current economic conditions, that sewer and water rate increases also be kept to a minimum, especially for the struggling commercial sector.
Yet at that very same meeting, council opted to reconsider its decision back in April to freeze a planned wage hike until December, 2012. Council then voted last night, with only Coun. Andrew Hallikas dissenting, to prepare a bylaw that would reinstate the raise to this Dec. 1 rather than putting it off for two years.
The reasoning was the province wasn’t abiding by its own promise for a wage freeze, nor were other councils following Fort Frances’ lead. That’s a shame, but it doesn’t change the fact local taxpayers will be footing a roughly 15 percent raise for councillors—and about a 30 percent hike for the deputy mayor—when they’re already being stretched to the limit.
That should be council’s prime consideration for when or if to implement a raise, not what other municipalities are doing.
Another rationale for the original decision to revise the salary structure was to help attract more people willing to sit on council. If that was the case, why did council choose to repeal the wage freeze after nominations had closed for the Oct. 25 municipal election, not before? Surely conditions have not changed so drastically in the month since the Sept. 10 deadline to file papers to warrant the sudden about-face.
Coun. Hallikas pointed out council should be setting the right example when times are tough. That would be going ahead with the wage freeze, not repealing it.