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Calgary councillors decline urgent motion to look at pay freeze for 2022

Calgary city council rejected an urgent notice of motion to freeze councillor wages for the upcoming year.

The item was brought forward to Monday’s combined meeting of council by Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean.

Calgary city council last approved a freeze and a cap on transition allowances in November 2020. It was part of a series of recommendations that would index council pay based on a monthly Alberta Weekly Earnings (AWE) average in a September-to-September period.

At that time, upon a question from former Coun. Jeromy Farkas, Scarlett Crockatt, chair of the citizen wage review committee, said that council had a reduction in two of the past four years, and zeros the other two.

“This is a very simple motion, as far as I’m concerned,” McLean said.

“It simply reads, ‘be it resolved that based on the current economic climate, effective January 1, 2022, salaries for the mayor and councillors remain frozen for the 2022 year.’”

Mayor Jyoti Gondek refused it as an item of urgent business. Council had the pay structure in place, and it would require a reconsideration of that prior decision.

“So, everything looks simple when you don’t weigh in the rest of the procedure,” she told McLean.

Admin said that they hadn’t received the average weekly earnings information at this point, so they weren’t able to formulate what the 2022 pay would be.

What’s urgent, what’s not

Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness questioned what warrants an urgent item. Moments earlier the city agreed to add in an urgent item on the city’s contribution to the Bill 21 legal issue.  She said that matter has already been reviewed in the courts and wouldn’t be reviewed again for months.

This would need to be passed before council’s first pay period ended Jan. 13.

“I’m just trying to figure out what’s urgent, what’s not, and how are we using our criteria to determine what we are going to call urgent and not,” Wyness said.

Mayor Gondek said the prior motion (Bill 22) had been worked on by councillors and community stakeholders before coming to council.

“This one was sprung on us at the last minute. I didn’t know what was coming,” Mayor Gondek said.

Coun. Andre Chabot said one of the reasons it was brought forward at the last minute was they’d only heard recently what the potential increase could be.

“The rationale from an urgency perspective is that if we don’t take action today, it’ll be too late,” he said.

The vote to uphold the chair’s ruling that it not be added as urgent business passed 9-6.