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Council salary freeze is a weak gesture


The not so magnificent seven of St. Albert city council has decided to freeze their salaries for this year. How magnanimous! Such sacrifice! This is the same bunch who upon being elected, one of their first orders of business was to vote themselves a raise. And then followed up six months later, decreed that the taxpayers could pay for their personal income taxes on their city salaries. This $6,000 savings to taxpayers is about as powerful as a fart in a hurricane. The crazy spending continues, though. The TV ads are a prime example. The commercials lack direction and are pointless, except that it mentions some article by a Macleans magazine writer, proclaiming St. Albert to be the finest city in Canada. The article lacks substance, giving the writer as much credence as a restaurant critic or a dog show judge. Some pretty words in the TV ads. Words like sustainable and innovative How they apply to St. Albert, I don't know ...

But this is not the first time this year, St. Albert has gained national prominence. City council took a stand against conversion therapy and vowed to ban it here. A bold yet toothless gesture. I totally agree that conversion therapy is medieval and abhorrent. However, a team of federal lawyers can't come up with anything that would stand up in court. So it is hard to imagine the political lightweights of city council would have any bearing on the matter. Some on council shed a tear for their bold stand. I cried too. For different reasons. It was like a waft of tear gas hitting me, realizing that our city council had suckered the national media with this story, while again failing to do what they were elected to do. City council was elected to be good stewards of taxpayers money. Two years in, they have failed miserably.

They have spent $2 million on a useless railroad fence and an unwanted storefront library. They build flared out crosswalks on residential streets, for those that are too stunned to look both ways before crossing the road. At $41,000 per crosswalk, this is waste.

The provincial government proposes to freeze or cut wages to provincial workers. For decades these folks were overpaid compared to other parts of the country. But the province had the money then, so it was OK to overpay. That money is now gone, time for drastic actions. Unfortunate and unpleasant, yet responsible. Conversely, here in St, Albert, all is business as usual. City council refuses to deal with the city's greatest expense: staffing. It is not hard to imagine that while times were great, city staff matched their provincial counterparts in high compensation. So, provincial public servants are about to take a hit, the municipal public servants of St. Albert, who are paid by the same taxpayers, continue on with regular raises and bonuses. Not only that, there is plenty of them! St. Albert's population has increased 4.46 per cent in the last four years, while staffing levels have gone up 13.36 per cent. Instead of applying a wage and hiring freeze, St. Albert's magnificent seven did what only they know: raise taxes.

A tax increase of only 2.5 per cent. Plus the 2.5 per cent increase on the electrical franchise fee effective Jan. 1. Then there will be the expected May calamity, where someone from administration will bolt through the doors of city council, shrieking about a missed decimal point or similar oversight. Presto! Taxes up to 3.5 per cent or more ... When is the next election? Can Edmonton annex us by then?

W. Maddox, St. Albert