Greedy Toronto councillors cash in big

Toronto city councillors handed themselves millions of dollars Wednesday – and the greed isn't over.

Have you ever seen one of those carnival contests where they lock the winner in a glass booth and fire up a cyclone inside while they try to grab a tornado of cash?

That’s exactly what happened in Toronto City Council today.

Today was the first day of the first meeting of the brand new, reduced-in-size Toronto City Council.

The new council may be 1/2 the size of the old council, but their greed has doubled in size. Where 44 councillors had spent about $10 million for office staff and expenses, the 25 new councillors have decided they can survive on just $12 million.

That’s right. 1/2 the councillors at twice the cost. And, they haven’t even decided on what their new salaries are going to be yet.

It’s not twice the work

In Green: the Greedy Gang of 18 who voted to add $2 million to their staffing budgets even after halving the size of council.

“We have twice the work, so we should have twice the budget to run our offices,” argued the greedy gang of 18 who approved a gluttonous doubling of their staffing budgets to $482,000.

In the last term of council, each councillor received $241,000 each year to hire staff. That allowed them to hire two to three staff:

  • 1 Executive Assistant (up to $70,000 approx.) who managed the councillor’s schedule, read documents and provided policy/political advice.
  • 1 – 3 Constituency Assistants (up to about $50,000) who dealt with constituency matters.

Even with wards that are twice the size, councillors do not need two Executive Assistants. The number of documents hasn’t changed – nor has the number of calendars to manage. There’s still one councillor to advise and that job can easily be done by the same singular EA.

One could argue that twice the number of constituents means twice the constituency work. I disagree, but let’s be generous. So, at most it may be reasonable to add 2 Constituency Assistants (3 if you’re being exorbitant. And Toronto councillors are always exorbitant.) At $50,000 each – that’s $100,000 to $150,000 in additional salary expense. Not the $241,000, they’ve awarded themselves. No way.

Watch for councillors to use their plush new staffing budgets to hire “consultants” who just happened to have “volunteered” on their election campaigns.

It’s not twice the trips either

Councillors also decided they needed to increase their office budgets from $34,000 to $50,000. This is the budget councillors use to have fun and get themselves re-elected. Typical expenses include:

  • All-expenses paid trips to meaningless conferences in vacation destinations.
  • Paying off campaign volunteers by giving them ridiculously over-priced contracts to design/manage websites and newsletters.
  • Printing & postage for propaganda newsletters leading up to the next election.
  • Buying voters favour with community parties at taxpayer expense.

There’s still only one councillor and – considering the greedy bunch expects to be so busy – it seems unlikely they will have time to go on more alcohol (and now cannabis?) fuelled junkets.

The websites don’t need to be bigger, and the newsletters don’t need to be more frequent or more pages. The printing and postage costs are ridiculous, but fine… increase those by $5,000. Printing gets cheaper as volumes increase.

Councillors may have more time, not less

The staff report recommends the number of boards and committees councillors sit on be drastically reduced. That makes eminent sense. There is zero need for councillors to sit on any external boards. Appoint citizens to those. More on that in another post.

Councillors should get a pay adjustment

It would be fair to raise the pay for councillors who know represent more people. It should, perhaps, be set as a percentage of what Members of Provincial Parliament are paid – say 75%. Councillors don’t need as much because they get publicly-funded pensions while MPPs do not. Ontario MPPs currently make about $117,000. By this measure, Councillors would be paid about $88,000. Considering councillors already get paid about $112,000 – they’re already over-paid.

I’m a reasonable guy. Give councillors a choice: Reduce their pay to $88,000 or increase their office budgets to $50,000. But not both.