It’s telling that on his first day in office Barack Obama cut administration salaries and froze others. He sent a message to taxpayers. He felt their pain. “Families are tightening their belts,” Mr. Obama said, “and so should Washington.”
And maybe so should Calgary. This week, officials are updating the city website with the new aldermanic salaries. This happens as our province lost 16,000 full-time jobs last month, the biggest loss since May 1986.
Everywhere you can feel it. There’s the flyer delivered to the door, not for high-end real estate, but pre-approval for a payday loan of $260. For a hefty fee, I can get a loan when my money runs out before the next paycheque. There’s the plunging prices of real estate. And my college students? They report fewer hours granted at their restaurant and retail jobs.
It used to be “how’s the job going?” was upbeat Calgary small talk, likely to be full of tales of increased wages, multiple offers or a great family-oriented schedule. When I posed this casual question to a dad on the ski trail last week, he hesitated. His hi-tech company was shutting down. No, it wasn’t Nortel.
Which brings us to aldermanic salaries, just raised 5.5 per cent to $96,940.73.
Now, I’m not one who thinks elected officials should be poorly compensated. Aldermen work hard, and listen to a litany of complaints. Their jobs are uncertain.
But at $96,940.73 per year, your alderman is in the top 15 per cent of all income earners in Alberta. That salary is in the top five per cent of all income earners in the nation.
Should Calgary councillors be earning more than 95 per cent of all Canadians, and 85 per cent of Albertans? The salary is based on average weekly earnings from last year, and earnings rarely go down. Though, admittedly, they could.
Aldermen also receive a $9,600 car allowance and a free parking spot at city hall. For a group that’s supposed to champion public transit, and is making it more and more expensive for Calgarians to take transit as well as park downtown, I have one feeble suggestion: Pay for your own car, and market rate for your own parking spot.
Pay for the damage unplowed roads incur to your car. Cozy up to the concerns of your constituents.
The nation’s top income earners can surely afford it.