Mayor Melissa Blake “cannot fathom” councillors voting themselves a raise as businesses are struggling post-wildfire.
In an interview with Fort McMurray Matters Wednesday the mayor spoke about the controversial 7-4 vote, which raised part-time councillor salaries from $35,000 to $75,000, while the three councillors that will sit on the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee get bumped to a full-time stipend of $150,000. The bylaw also included a pay raise for the mayor, from $124,000 to $150,000.
The move has led to public outrage on social media, with many questioning the timing and rate of increase.
Blake said the “methodology” of how the raises came about is difficult for her to respect.
“The numbers that came were just picked out of the air,” she said. “They said ‘this sounds good!'”
She also questioned the speed with which councillors rejected an amendment by Councillor Tyran Ault that would have separated the pay increase from the Wood Buffalo Recovery Committee Bylaw. The amendment called for an administrative review of post-wildfire compensation with a report due July 19 on what a proper pay increase would entail for the increased workload councillors have been handling.
Within two minutes and fifty-three seconds, Councillors Vinni, McGrath, Germain, Bussieres, Cardinal, and Voyageur voted down the amendment 6-5.
“It was shocking and surprising to me,” Blake said. “I have to respect the vote, but I don’t have to respect how they got there.”
The mayor says that she believes the councillors could have gotten their intended outcome through the administrative review, but the process would have allowed the public to understand the raises properly.
Blake says she’ll be rejecting the pay increase, along with Councillors Ault, Meagher, and Stroud.
“We heard from business people that are on the edge of disaster,” she said. “I just cannot fathom elected officials making their own choice on that night.”
Councillor Keith McGrath, despite voting in favour of the pay raise, has also said he won’t be accepting anything above his pre-wildfire salary.
The only councillor to confirm they will be taking the increase so far is Colleen Tatum. She contended on Facebook that “the real costs of life need to be accounted for.” The post has since been deleted.