It would be easy for North Okanagan Regional District politicians to simply look at their own circumstances when considering remuneration.
However, there appears to be some recognition that all is not well with those who would pick up the cost of any increased tab — the residents and businesses of the area.
“Times are tough and we’re all struggling,” said Rick Fairbairn, rural Lumby director, referring to the ongoing impact of the recession.
A three-person citizens’ committee is recommending base pay for directors, as well as meeting pay, climb two per cent. It doesn’t sound like much and it could be brushed aside as just the cost of living, but how many residents are seeing their salaries climb two per cent this year? In some cases, job loss has forced them on to social assistance and those cheques aren’t increasing two per cent. Demand is up at food banks.
Many of the electoral areas depend on the resource sector economically and we all know what’s happened with forestry. Small-scale farmers have been rocked by provincial meat processing rules. They haven’t got the cash to be paying politicians more, and certainly not the five per cent increase being recommended for the NORD chairperson and vice-chairperson.
Obviously there is a cost to running government and elected officials should be compensated fairly. After all, private lives and careers are interrupted so they can serve the public.
But when considering salaries, it shouldn’t be a case of keeping up with their counterparts in other regional districts. The focus should be on the local economic circumstances at the time and what their constituents can handle.