Prince Rupert City Hall. (File photo)

Tax change triggers tricky debate on politicians’ pay

January first changes will remove one-third tax exemption for elected officials

Like running the vacuum or taking long drives to nowhere, talking tax policy can be a great way to induce sleep.

But the upcoming loss of a tax break for elected officials across Canada is causing councillors in the region to take notice.

Starting Jan. 1, the federal government will cancel a long-standing tax exemption for provincial legislators, mayors, councillors, school trustees, regional district directors, and other elected officials.

Currently, instead of filing expenses, most of those elected officials pay no tax on a third of their pay.

The idea was that for most elected officials, a one-third tax break is easier to manage than having everyone file claims for the many expenses related to their civic duties.

But in 2017, the Liberal government decided to scrap the tax break, saying it was unfair because it “provides an advantage that other Canadians do not enjoy.”

The change opened a whole can of worms.

First, local representatives faced the question — should they get a raise to offset the loss and keep their pay unchanged?

Second, since the ever-uncomfortable issue was already on the table, are they due for a further raise anyway?

The City of Prince Rupert addressed the issue during its regular meeting of council on Oct. 22.

Mayor Lee Brain explained to council that since the exemption would no longer exist, councillors and the mayor would essentially be taking a pay cut if compensation remained the same.

READ MORE: Council votes to expand proposed cannabis zone in Prince Rupert

Brain suggested establishing a blue ribbon select standing committee to study the issue and suggest solutions for compensation.

The committee is made up of members of the community and will specifically look at: addressing the impacts of the removal of the one-third tax exemption, making a recommendation on the appropriate mayor and council remuneration moving forward and making a recommendation on a appropriate daily Per Diem framework moving forward.

During discussion, councillor Blair Mirau said he agreed with the creation of the committee since the mayor and councillors do require appropriate compensation for time spent attending to city business.

“I’m not really a fan of politicians setting their own wages so I think this is a good idea to get a comparison with other communities made explicit so we can at least have a recommendation on what the benchmarks should be,” Mirau said.

The motion to create the standing committee passed unanimously. While it was originally intended for the committee to make its recommendations by the end of December, Prince Rupert communications manager Veronika Stewart said its report will not be ready until the new year at the city’s Jan. 28 regular council meeting.

Most recently, the issue came up in December’s North Coast Regional District meeting, where the directors voted in favour of an offsetting pay raise, noting that the extra tax burden is just 20 cents for the average valued residential property.

The total pay for the entire 10-member board is $160,568.

While staff recommended the raise and it passed, the vote was not unanimous, with Director and Queen Charlotte Mayor Kris Olsen voting against.

“I don’t think it should be on the taxpayers,” he said.

With files from Matthew Allen

READ MORE council briefs here



newsroom@thenorthernview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Prince Rupert school board meeting briefs: PRMS construction top priority

School District 52 seeks to replace Prince Rupert Middle School and Conrad Elementary

Baby birds hatched at Pembina worksite, construction halted temporarily

Bird nest sighting by the wharf on Watson Island, Prince Rupert

Smithers man receives two-year sentence for fatal car crash

Over a year after a fatal crash, a Smithers man has been sentenced to two years plus a day in jail.

Pizzeria replacing Zorba’s Taverna at the end of the month

The iconic quirky mural from Prince Rupert’s Greek restaurant was painted over this week

UPDATE: No injuries in Third Avenue Fire, investigation underway

Prince Rupert’s Pacific Inn sustained water damage in the basement and smoke on ground floor

Cyclists competing in one of the toughest bike races on the planet pass through Fernie

Divide riders looking strong as they finish first leg of 4160 km race

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

B.C. Interior First Nation family ‘heartbroken’ over loss of young mom

RCMP have released no new information since the June 8, 2019 homicide

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Most Read