Councillor agrees on referendum idea for city hall pay hikes

amarc bence/for metro edmonton


Coun. Mike Nickel tries to keep a handle on 2,700 petitions at city hall yesterday.

One Edmonton councillor says taxpayers should decide via a referendum whether civic politicians are awarded a raise.

After accepting a petition with 2,700 signatures from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation demanding city council hold a referendum on hefty pay hikes for the mayor and council, Coun. Mike Nickel said yesterday the issue will loom large leading up to this fall’s election.

“I still get e-mails and, as you can see, we have a lot of signatures here,” said Nickel. “I think this is an issue that matters to a lot of people.”

Last spring, city councillors voted to increase their annual pay from $63,638 to $72,000 — a 13 per cent hike that will take affect after the Oct. 15 election.

Mayor Stephen Mandel’s yearly wage is set to increase from $121,821 to $131,000 — an increase of seven per cent.

Scott Hennig, the CTF’s Alberta director, handed a large box filled with petition sheets to Nickel yesterday on the front steps of city hall.

Hennig says with new car and RRSP allowances approved by city hall, as well as a health spending account, the total annual cash compensation increase is 21 per cent for city councillors and 14 per cent for the mayor.

“Councillors shouldn’t keep sticking their heads in the sand while pretending their outrageous pay and perk hikes aren’t an election issue,” said Hennig.

Nickel says he will be approaching councillors to find someone that can second the motion at council’s next meeting on Tuesday.

“We have a 2,700-name petition here and you have to treat it with respect,” said Nickel.

“I can’t do this alone when it comes to putting this up as a ballot issue.”

Coun. Janice Melnychuk says she would second the motion, but says the CTF request will not become an issue because of the limited amount of time before the Oct. 15 election.

“If the (CTF) is truly a national body, I would have expected they would have done their homework and done it properly and had it brought in with enough time so that it could actually be done,” said Melnychuk.

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