In The Morning Star, the council-appointed citizens’ committee for remuneration is quoted as saying that they, “view the mayor and council as the equivalent to the board of directors of a private sector corporation with an annual budget of $60 million.”
With due respect to the four members of this committee, this supposition is dead wrong.
A private sector corporation exists to earn money for its owners through the operation of some sort of commercial enterprise. An incorporated government body (a municipality, crown corporation, etc.) exists to provide services to the public that are not or cannot be provided by the private sector, at the lowest possible cost. Examples of these services are the construction and maintenance of public roads, statutory policing, jurisdiction-wide firefighting, etc. The civic government, corporation though it may be, is not there to turn a profit.
Ideally, it should break even. A surplus usually indicates over-taxation. There is another important difference between the private and public sectors, one that completely justifies (what should be) the large salary difference between the two. A private corporation must persuade you to buy its product.
No matter how large his company may be, no matter how much his salary and bonus may be, the CEO of Coca-Cola Inc. cannot force you to buy a can of his product. But try telling the City of Vernon that you don’t feel like paying your property tax this year, or your parking tickets, and see what happens.
Refuse to buy a business license, and see how quickly they shut you down. The point is this: while the private corporation can sell it’s products or services only to the willing, governments extract most of their revenues on demand, through various forms of taxation, which those living in its jurisdiction are compelled to pay. As you can see, there is precious little equivalence here, and no reason whatsoever for any public sector employee, elected or otherwise, to receive anything close to the income of the board of directors of a private corporation.
And if it is true that the “complexity and the commitment of the mayor and councillor has increased substantially over the last two decades”, that is a sure sign that the city is trying to do far too much, especially when you consider that Vernon’s population hasn’t really increased that much during that time frame.
Get back to basics — to what the Constitution outlines as municipal responsibilities — and council members might not find the job so absorbing. Learn to say no to self-interested pressure groups and lobbyists, and it might really simplify things.