Skip to content

Columbia Shuswap directors share concerns over political work-life balance

‘The amount of time that I put in, I’m not well compensated for this’
CSRD directors discussed difficulties with public perception and remuneration at the Oct. 26 committee of the whole meeting. (File photo)

Addressing public perception of their job and what they’re paid was part of a discussion recently had by elected officials at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD).

This conversation arose in relation to the regional district’s remuneration bylaw at the Oct. 26 CSRD committee of the whole meeting. The bylaw stipulates what electoral area and municipal directors are paid annually, as well as what they’re compensated for travel and attending conferences.

Financial services and deputy manager Jodi Pierce confirmed a remuneration review was undertaken using a consultant, with the current bylaw coming into effect in January 2019. Board chair Kevin Flynn noted the process was at times contentious and divisive.

“I just hope, as a board this isn’t, contentious or divisive – we just have a good discussion about compensation – things we need to look at…,” said Flynn.

Electoral Area F director Jay Simpson got the ball rolling by commenting on the challenge of striking a balance, one that sees directors fairly compensated for the work they do (at the boardroom and in their communities) without “seeming to be greedy or keeping the taxpayers’ bills as low as possible.” He explained a director’s wage, combined with the demands of the job, limits interest in the job.

“The amount of time that I put in, I’m not well compensated for this,” said Simpson. “It would be difficult for typically anybody in a younger scenario to get involved in this. We need good people in here and the remuneration doesn’t allow for everybody to become a regional district director or a councillor in general, and that limits some of our options that way.”

Electoral Area C director Marty Gibbons suggested there’s some “systemic discrimination” at play with the job towards young families and/or people still having to work. However, Gibbons didn’t dispute the compensation levels currently captured in the bylaw.

Read more: Columbia Shuswap Regional District report shows pay, expenses for staff, elected officials

Read more: CSRD board approves pay increase for directors

Electoral Area B director David Brooks-Hill spoke to the challenging balance of political expectations and those of his job.

“I’m able to do this because I’m self employed…,” said Brooks-Hill. “It does pay less than my other job and basically I’m making less money. I would support increasing it because really, if you read the principles – the time requirements of this job could be endless. You could spend day and night working on it if you wanted to, or you don’t… and I think really, the more you pay people, they more they’ll work on it. Although, some people maybe work on it without the pay because they have the time.”

Electoral Area G director Natalya Melnychuk spoke to public perception, noting there’s this expectation… that we have inflated salaries and this is why I took on this role.”

“And when you get into the space of how much you’re actually paid, they are shocked: ‘You’re getting paid what? For all of that!’” she said.

Furthermore, Melnychuk explained emergency situations, such as this summer’s wildfire, required her to work as director, pulling her away from her job.

Asked where CSRD directors’ pay sits in comparison with other regional districts, Pierce said when the policy was drafted in 2018, we aimed to be around the 50th percentile. I think we’re still in that range.” She suggested if the board wants staff to bring back a report, that it included it in 2024 work plan, and it is unlikely staff would get to it until after budget is approved.

Gibbons suggested, instead of staff doing the work, asking the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) or the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) for that comparative information.

Speaking to the political work-life balance, Area D director Dean Trumbley commented on public expectation that he and his boardroom peers are full-time politicians, “no different from the province and the feds.

“We all know we get phone calls from six in the morning to six at night, we get invited to multiple different things and you have to try and balance that so you make sure your regular job is paying for things,” said Trumbley. “I’m lucky because I’m semi retired. But I think the larger issue to me is, is this something you push to UBCM or SILGA, saying do we need this larger scale talk about local government an the expectations on the officials?”

Flynn suggested communication to the public of “realistic expectations” needs to come from the CSRD’s communications team.

“We aren’t full time… people aren’t aware of how little your compensation is,” said Flynn.

The committee supported a motion that a letter be sent to UBCM and SILGA for information on director remuneration and best practices.

According to CSRD remuneration bylaw, Bylaw 5786, electoral area directors receive $17,800 annually for conducting local business in their respective areas and $5,200 for attending regularly scheduled meetings. Municipal directors receive $12,000 annually for representing their municipalities on the regional district board and $3,000 for attending regularly scheduled meetings. The board chair receives and additional annual stipend of $22,000, and the board vice-chair and additional $3,200 annually.

Sign up for our newsletter to get Salmon Arm stories in your inbox every morning.