WHISTLER – Premier Christy Clark wants rising municipal pay rates to be front and centre in November elections around B.C., and that’s why her government set off a storm at the annual local government convention by releasing an unflattering comparison study with provincial pay.
In her speech to close the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention Friday, Clark told 2,000 local government delegates she is “not here to point a finger” at local governments, but she wants them to do the hard work of negotiations as the province did in the recent dispute with B.C. teachers.
A study by Ernst & Young was released days before the convention by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. It calculated that unionized municipal staff received pay increases of 38 per cent between 2001 and 2012, twice as much as unionized provincial staff, and ahead of inflation of 23 per cent during the same period.
“I think it’s a legitimate issue to be discussed because it’s taxpayers who pay for these compensation costs,” Clark told reporters after her speech. “Further than that we’ll wait until we have new municipal councils to speak with, and then we can talk about the next steps.”
NDP local government critic Selina Robinson said the report, prepared and leaked without notice to the UBCM, “hit a group of people over the head with a two-by-four.”
Robinson also objected to Clark urging B.C. residents to choose peaceful accommodation, saying the long and bitter strike that shut schools for five weeks is a poor example.
In her speech, Clark emphasized the importance of resource development, an apparent reference to the battle led by Burnaby against the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline.
Clark announced the appointment of Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett to lead a rural advisory committee to give rural communities a “fair share” of resource development. She used the example of Princeton, a community of 3,000 that generates $750 million in economic activity from forestry and the Copper Mountain Mine.
Clark admitted the B.C. government has “fallen behind” on a long-standing government promise to extend broadband Internet to small communities, and vowed to renew efforts for communities such as Granisle, where fibre optic lines stopped just short of the community.