GORE BAY—The majority of Gore Bay town councillors have rejected a recommendation that it increase its annual remunerations to offset the tax deductions thanks to changes made by the federal government relating to tax exemptions for elected officials.
“I’m against it,” stated Councillor Kevin Woestenenk, concerning the recommended increase in stipends that had been proposed by the town’s general government committee. “I know our council may be the lowest or one of the lowest paid on Manitoulin Island, but I’m not in favour of it (increase).” “And I know we are falling behind because of government changes made to the tax laws for councils,” said Councillor Woestenenk. “But I also think they (proposed increases) are probably going to be slashed in the budget (deliberations) anyway.”
“I think we should go for it,” stated Councillor Ken Blodgett.
“I’m for it,” said Councillor Paulie Nodecker. “This is a chance to take the opportunity for the new council, with the budget to be done, and would provide a fresh start,” adding that council could at least look at options in its budget deliberations.
Councillor Patricia Bailey said, “if we think this (proposal) will be slashed from the budget anyway, I don’t think this is something we can do right now.”
At the most recent Gore Bay general government committee meeting, town assistant clerk Stasia Carr provided information on the remuneration. She advised the committee that to offset tax deductions, the councillor remuneration would need to increase by eight percent at least. And in order to bring council’s remuneration to the same level as other councils on the Island, a 31.5 percent increase would be required. The total cost of council is $25,638. Costs depend on variables such as the number of meetings scheduled. With a 31.5 percent increase the total cost would be $33,715.
As has been reported previously, the federal government in its 2017 budget enacted a legislative change to eliminate the one-third tax free exemption for municipal elected officials effective starting in 2019. It was positioned against a point that “many Canadians receive benefits, such as daily food allowance or transit fare, which are counted as taxable incomes.” The budget plan further went on to say that the “tax exemption for non-accountable expense allowances paid to members of provincial and territorial legislative assemblies and to certain municipal office holders…provides an advantage that other Canadians do not enjoy.”
Municipal elected officials across the country had been able to use a 1/3 tax exemption in lieu of claiming expenses related to their duties under the previous exemptions.
The Gore Bay general government committee had passed a motion for council’s consideration that a draft four-year council remuneration grid be created, starting with an eight percent annual increase initially, with a progressive six percent increase each year to reach a goal of a 25 percent increase, subject to budget approval.
The majority of Gore Bay councillors voted against the recommendation from the general government committee and any increase in remuneration. Councillors Leeanne Woestenenk, Kevin Woestenenk, Patricia Bailey and Arron Wright voted against the recommendation, with Councillors Ken Blodgett and Paulie Nodecker in favour of the increases.