Richmond mayoral candidates Malcolm Brodie, Richard Lee andCliff Lifeng Wei
— Image Credit: Matthew Hoekstra
In the wake of a report documenting a rapid rise in municipal compensation, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie defended city workers’ salaries in a Thursday mayoral debate.
Brodie, campaigning for a seventh term in the Nov. 15 vote, said unionized workers’ pay is governed by negotiated agreements. As for management—who are paid too much according to an Ernst and Young report made public last month—Brodie said “it’s all relative.”
“If we don’t pay our management enough, then they go somewhere else,” he said in front of a Minoru Place Activity Centre crowd of approximately 250 people. “That’s a huge cost, when you lose a longtime employee and that person goes elsewhere. So you have to pay market rate to your employees, and it’s also a matter of fairness.”
To probe municipal pay, the province hired consultants Ernst and Young, whose report criticized cities for allowing pay levels to climb by 38 per cent—twice the rate of the provincial public service—from 2001-12. The report also suggested municipal managers are paid too much and recommended the province take strong action to curb the trend.
Richard Lee, who is making a second run at the mayor’s job and running with Richmond Reform, said staff are entitled to their current deals, but suggested there’s room for wage scrutiny.
“I believe in the free market, we could have and in the future we will under my leadership, to hire somebody at a reasonable rate, not at the alarming rate that was shared with us in that study…”
Richmond City Hall’s payroll has grown by $15 million in five years. The city’s top earner is chief administrative officer George Duncan, who made $291,250 last year. Department heads also score high on the pay scale, as five of six general managers topped the $200,000 mark in 2013.
Thursday’s short debate, organized by the Richmond Centre for Disability, served as a prelude to a much larger forum featuring 28 candidates running for councillor.
Mayoral candidates also waded into the contentious waters of Chinese-only signs. Lee said they’re “not a good thing.” Some will argue for freedom of expression, he said, but added “all rights are conditional.”