Letter: Letter writer sets the record straight for the record

Dear Editor:

I read a letter on Manitoulin.com with some interest a) because it is critical of me and a letter I wrote a couple of weeks ago and b) because it perpetuates an interpretation of facts about Billings council stipend which is just not true!

Still, it does give me the opportunity to correct the record and let “the facts” speak for themselves! All that follows is on the record in the October 6, 2020 council agenda package on the Billings Township website.

Starting at page 24 until 97 there is a discussion paper submitted by CAO/Clerk Kathy McDonald which compares current Billings council compensation with the compensation of other councils on the Island.

This is very useful because it captures all the key parameters in a simple table and where appropriate compares them to compensation parameters in other Island municipalities (only Burpee and Mills was lower than Billings).

In the 2019 budget total council compensation was budgeted at $30,000 (actual was $27,030).

CAO/Clerk McDonald noted, “council remuneration was discussed by the previous council near the end of their term, but no changes were made at that time; council remuneration has not been updated since 2014.” I understand that then Councillor Erskine made some proposals at that time, at least in the same order of magnitude as the current increase. This was documented by the local media at the time.

So, has this council voted itself double its previous compensation as she claims? Of course not! Again, I let CAO/Clerk McDonald summarize: “At the September 21, 2020 meeting council was asked to let me know what each member felt was the right formula to use. The three councillors that I heard from were all in favour of the Gordon/Barrie Island model. One councillor commented that the meal rates were too low. Two councillors were satisfied with the current mileage rate.

Gordon-Barrie Island remuneration rates, based on 2019 council attendance would mean an increase in the budget of approximately $8,000. Council remuneration as a flat rate is simpler for councillors in terms of submitting their timesheets, more predictable from a budgetary perspective, discourages unnecessary meetings, and requires less administration. A flat-rate remuneration scheme would address current and historical issues with submission deadlines and accuracy and save a considerable amount of administrative time for both staff and council (e.g. attendance-tracking).

Gordon-Barrie Island remuneration rates based on 2019 council attendance would mean an increase in the budget of approximately $8,000 which includes everything—not just stipend.

So, to summarize, yes, council voted themselves an increase—first since 2014 but no, it was not double the previous amount as claimed by Ms. Erskine! Split $8,000 five ways without even cost of living adjustment and I don’t think anyone on council will be retiring in luxury, do you? As for criticisms that I was somehow in breach of policy in commenting on (and correcting) what members of the public had written about council’s compensation, that is about as erroneous as the statements about doubled compensation. But it seems that correcting facts is no longer the game. A bit like the fun and games south of our border for the last four years. Write something and if the fact checkers didn’t get to it to challenge it—it must be true, right?

Paul Darlaston