As a result of the wildfire that destroyed thousands of homes and displaced over 94,000 residents, city councillors of Fort McMurray, Alberta will now be some of the highest paid part-time politicians in Canada.
This week, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo councillors approved a motion by a vote of seven to four in support of doubling some of their salaries. Seven of the part-time councillors will have their annual earnings rise from $36,000 to $75,000. Additionally, three members of a Fort Mac recovery committee will now work full time and see their pay rise to $150,000.
To no one's surprise, there's been lots of criticism about these hefty requests. As Fort Mac residents continue to return to what's left of their homes and businesses, the councillors who voted against the pay raises say it's ridiculous.
"This council ran, and we didn't expect a wild fire, but ... we knew what our commitments were intended to be," Mayor Melissa Blake said. Blake said she will not be accepting a salary raise to $150,000, along with other opposing councillors, Jane Stroud and Tyran Ault.
In addition to the pay raises, this bylaw also says that members of the recovery committee should "devote their effort and attention to the work for the committee as they would to a full-time job." Given, they are making $150K a year now, that makes sense.
But residents are wondering why the part-timers are getting the raises.
Chad Remillard, a Fort Mac resident whose family has been homeless since May, told CTV that "the money should be put towards the firefighters, the brave men and women who actually fought to save our city." He called the motion "outrageous."
Councillor Stroud echoed the same sentiment, saying, "I think we need to stay our course and accept the responsibility of the extra workload."
Meanwhile, Colleen Tatum, one of the councillors who voted in favour of the pay raises, took to Facebook to justify her reasoning.
"Child care, lost time in my business, lost opportunities elsewhere, do cost me much more than I ever earn," she said. "It does seem obscene on face value, to ask for a raise in these extreme and very hard times, but the justification I do feel is there."
The new salaries will continue until the end of next year. We wish them well, rebuilding the city with their bare hands.
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