A Parksville-Qualicum Beach News reporter brought this news story to my attention today, and having read the story, I’m stupefied. How can 76 year-old Ken Dawson, candidate for Electoral Area Director in Area E say in one breath, “we need younger candidates to enter the race,” and in the next challenge all candidates to pledge to donate their remuneration if elected?
The story says that Mr. Dawson “did the math and if everyone donated their pay cheque they could raise over three million dollars for charity.” I’m not sure what Mr. Dawson means by “everyone”. If he’s talking about the Regional District of Nanaimo, the total amount of remuneration for the Board of Directors is only $233,083.00. Perhaps he counted all the regional board directors across the province?
The position of Electoral Area Director with the RDN has an annual remuneration of $15,935.00. If the director only works 10 hours a week, this is a generous allowance of $30.64 / hour, and if the director only works this much, then they have plenty of time for a second job. At 20 hours a week, the director’s hourly wage would be less than the hourly “living wage” for our community. At 30 hours, the director makes less per hour than I do at my current customer service job, and if the director is dedicated enough to work 40 hours / week, they would be earning less than minimum wage. I suppose it is all a matter of how much work you think your elected official should be doing. If all you expect them to do is show up to board and committee meetings, then perhaps they are overpaid. If you expect them to be well-informed, frequently consulting with the community, and actively advocating for your concerns, then the job doesn’t actually provide much at all.
Really, though, the problem isn’t with Mr. Dawson’s math; it is with his conflicting desire to see more young people as politicians AND have all candidates pledge to donate their financial compensation for serving. Mr. Dawson said, “A lot of municipal politicians have other sources of income and don’t really need the money.” Do the retired and/or independently wealthy really represent the full spectrum of our society? Are these the people we want making our decisions? Aren’t dissatisfied young people across North America and Europe converging right now to protest the imbalance of the rich controlling our political systems?
If you take away the very, very minor remuneration offered for local government positions, what working person can afford to take time from work to serve? For that matter, how many young, working people can afford to take time from work to run for office? How can we afford to fund our campaigns? I’m funding my entire campaign on a single pay cheque. To be more accurate, I’m spending the equivalency of one pay cheque’s worth of money on my campaign, but really, it is all just going on my VISA because I don’t have any “extra” money. To attend community functions, I have to take time off work, too, so my income for the next pay period will be cut in half. I’m not running in this election because I expect it to better my financial position (in fact, if I’m elected, I’ll be taking a pay cut), but if there was no remuneration provided for the position, there is no way I could afford to serve in local government. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT advocating for an increase in the remuneration provided to RDN board members. I am simply trying to point out that the remuneration is not substantial, and that financial stress is one of the barriers to younger people serving in local government. It is ludicrous to say that you want to see more young people involved in local government, but that you also want to see politicians work for free.
We want to be involved. Of the 3234 people running for local government in BC this year, 1656 (51%) provided their age range to CivicInfo BC. Of those 1656 people, 269 (16%) are under 40 years of age. If you want younger people to be actively involved in the decision making process, then you need to elect us. It’s a simple as that. Instead, though, we are overlooked for not having enough experience or “history”. Even those of us that were born and raised in this community face criticism for not being connected enough because we may have left the area for a time to go to school or find work. The truth is that those of us under 40 have a lot to offer to our communities, and we are willing to do so, but we need the electorate to take a leap of faith, a step into the future and put their trust us. We’re not just “youth candidates”: we are active, intelligent people wanting to serve our communities.
Here are your local “under-40” candidates. If you really want to see younger people involved in local government, then vote for us:
RDN: Skye Donald (Area F), Jordy Alexander (Gabriola Island), and Lance Pope (Area G)
City of Nanaimo: Peter Ramsay, Trent Snikkers, Christopher Ouellette-Croucher, George Anderson & Chris Cathers
City of Parksville: Jesse Schroeder, Alicia Vanin, possibly Peter Morrison
District of Lantzville: Jennifer Millbank, Andrew Mostad, Jordan Gail, Michael Geselbrac
Qualicum School District: Willow Bloomquist
Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District: Noah Routley*Data from CivicInfo BC, except for Lance Pope, Willow Bloomquist and Peter Morrison.