According to Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, so low is the average wage of a municipal politician in B.C. that our local councils are made up mainly of “retired, bald men.”
Though the description of our average civic leader was tossed off in jest, it actually sums up much of the rationale behind council’s recent decision to hike the pay of the next group of representatives for our fair district. And while it’s hard to see the follicly challenged as a massing threat to democracy, there’s some decent logic at work here.
Over the past few months, councillors, electoral area directors and school trustees have repeatedly told Echo reporters how difficult it can be to get a handle on the finer points of local governance. The learning curve for a new member has been described as “steep,” “very steep” and “incredibly steep.”
For first timers, diving into the political pool takes plenty of reading, research and question asking. Even for veterans, the same should hold true. Council agendas can stretch across more than 100 pages, and close reading is encouraged. That alone is a time commitment, as any high school student in the midst of a major novel study can tell you. And that doesn’t include a multitude of meetings, or the time our people in power spend debating the latest council move, or hearing residential complaints in the aisles of our local grocery stores and coffee shops.
Getting involved in politics is a serious time commitment, and one that’s not as easy to make for people who depend on an hourly pay cheque. If our politicians are rewarded for their hours in our service, it’s more likely we’ll see people from a broad section of society put their names out there. Which means when it comes time to vote, there’s a better chance someone on council will understand and represent you — hair or no hair.
—The Valley Echo