Bert Hick of Rising Tide Consultants, specializing in liquor licensing, addresses city council on Nov. 19, 2019. (City of Chilliwack)

Opinion: Your council has a tougher job than you give it credit for

Councillors work hard and for a capricious master

Honesty. Integrity. Accountability. Passion.

These are words many people would be reluctant to associate with politicians; however, they are qualities that municipal politicians across Vancouver Island have to a great extent.

This is a statement Canadians seem to agree with.

According to a survey from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 61 percent of Canadians felt that their local government best understood the challenges facing their communities, and 86 percent of Canadians agreed it was a good idea to give municipal governments more control over infrastructure projects.

RELATED: North Cowichan council members face financial ding for bad behaviour

RELATED: Victoria council avoids 2020 deficit by deferring over $20 million in capital projects

As it stands now, municipalities are reliant on property taxation and grant funding as their only source of revenue to complete projects.

Communities benefit from donations raised by active service organizations to complete local projects, like the Kinsmen, Health Care Auxiliaries, the Rotary Club, the Eagles, the Legion, and others.

But when it comes to key issues like affordable housing, action on climate change, child care spaces, and access to health care services, those all lie in provincial jurisdiction. Even critical infrastructure projects like road maintenance and water infrastructure projects would be untenable without provincial and federal support.

Local politicians often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They tirelessly advocate to higher levels of government to get the best opportunities for their communities, and they face the brunt of public criticism for the lack of those opportunities.

Yes, municipal governments must be held accountable for their decisions. Residents should pay close attention to their municipal leadership, and ensure the government is serving the community.

However — by and large — municipal politicians serve at their posts because they care deeply about their communities, and want to make them better. They certainly don’t do it for the money.

For example, 2020 remunerations for Ladysmith town councillors is $15,552; and $37,676 for the mayor. Councillors across the nation work an average 20-25 hours per week, and mayors work an average of 30-40 hours per week. That means that our councillors receive at most $8 dollars per hour, and our mayor receives at most $18 dollars per hour.

This same group works to make sure that everything from budgets to bathrooms are taken care of. While residents may not agree with every decision they make, the decision of mayor and council to devote their time and efforts in service of Ladysmith is commendable, and deserving of respect.

There may be some in the community who have thought about running for municipal government. For those considering a run, know that you will find yourself in good company around the council table.

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