Two minutes and fifty-three seconds is all it took for councillors to strike down an amendment to a bylaw that would take pay increases for themselves off the table Tuesday night.
Councillor Tyran Ault proposed the amendment after public questioning over council potentially doubling their part-time salaries and quintupling the salaries of those who will serve on the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee.
The pay increases were included in the bylaw that would create that very committee, with part-time councillors going from an annual salary of $36,000 to $75,000 and full-time councillors and the mayor being eligible for $150,000 in pay. The increases would make the full-time councillors the highest-paid in Canada.
The amendment failed in a 5-6 vote. Councillors Keith McGrath, Allan Vinni, Sheldon Germain, Claris Voyageur, Julia Cardinal, and Lance Bussieres all opposed striking compensation from the bylaw.
Ault, Mayor Melissa Blake, and Councillors Jane Stroud, Phil Meagher, and Colleen Tatum voted in favour of removing pay increases from the legislation.
The bylaw itself passed 7-4, with Councillor Tatum being the only one who changed her vote from the amendment.
The vote officially creates the recovery committee, which promotes Councillors McGrath, Vinni, and Germain to full-time status for being the group’s council representatives. Their role is to advise council on policies that will assist the post-wildfire rebuild in Fort McMurray.
In a verbal poll after the vote, Mayor Blake, Councillor Stroud, and Councillor Ault all confirmed they would be instructing RMWB human resources to maintain their pre-fire pay rates.
“I vote in favour of not having a pay increase,” said Ault. “So it would be hypocritical of me to then accept one.”
Councillor McGrath also confirmed that, despite voting to keep the pay increase, he wouldn’t be accepting a raise for himself.
“My remuneration will stay the same as a public servant until the end of my term,” he said.
When speaking to Fort McMurray Matters prior to Tuesday’s meeting McGrath defended the pay increase, saying councillors were working 80-90 hours a week in some cases, and needed to feed their families.
Of the councillors asked, only Ward 1 Representative Colleen Tatum said she would be accepting the increased salary.
“I am honoured to serve,” she wrote on Facebook. “But the real cost of life also needs to be accounted for. Child care, lost time in my business, lost opportunities elsewhere do cost me much more than I ever earn.”
Councillors Bussieres and Meagher said they hadn’t come to a decision on what they would do about their raises. Councillors Cardinal and Voyageur couldn’t be reached by the time this story was put to publication.
Councillor Germain declined to comment Tuesday night.
When asked about why he voted in favour of the pay increase, Councillor Vinni provided a rather colourful “no comment” to this reporter and Fort McMurray Today.
“This town’s had enough of negative s***,” he said. “So you go make up the story and tell them whatever the f*** you want.”