Feathering one’s own nest on the sly never looks good.
And when a group of politicians does it, it typically makes taxpayers want to yark.
This pandemic has put many out of work, including many City of Surrey employees who were laid off last year.
Against that backdrop, the optics of nine council members voting themselves a 2.3 per cent pay increase this year is ill-timed enough, even if it is to a level in accord with what other politicians are making elsewhere in Canada.
But that it was done in a meeting closed to the public, even though a redacted report was subsequently released to the public, has a particularly ugly look to it – like somebody getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar, whether that’s fair to say or not. As they say, in politics perception is everything.
Seeing the report from city staff concerns how elected officials are indemnified by taxpayers for the work they’re elected to do, we have to wonder why so much of its content is blacked out.
If ratepayers in a democracy aren’t counted among those who need to know, that’s a problem. Does releasing a redacted report after a vote is held in secret make everything right? You be the judge.
Another problem, of no less concern, is that council members are not allowed to reveal how they vote during in-camera meetings. Therefore, the public will never know who voted for the pay increase and who, if anyone, did not.
Some councillors feel too much city business is done behind closed doors. For the public not to know who voted how on what, makes for not only a disservice to the electorate but also to the politicians who, not being able to reveal how they voted, are rendered unable to defend themselves or explain why they voted this way or that.
It makes for a deficit in accountability.