By Steve Connolly
Last spring, I was greeted at the Pontiac MRC by the smiling deputy director general. When I politely asked for the salary amount earned by his boss, the director general, he lost his smile, demanded that I file an access to information request, turned his back on me, and rudely disappeared. Later, I learned that the director general earns about $85,000 yearly.
MRC des Collines reported that their director general earns $130,000 yearly. MRC de la Vallee refused to reveal this public information to me, but it’s known that their director general earns over $100,000 annually. All director generals receive 17 per cent or so of additional benefits.
MRCs, wastefully, have deputy director generals whose incomes are not much lower. Then comes the the MRC management staff, who are highly paid and increasing in number.
This enormous tax burden is strongly supported by our mayors who direct the MRCs. Pay raises are automatic. By inaction, most councillors also support this ‘system.’ Mayors consider it too much work to provide performance evaluations for MRC director generals. During a recession, I imagine that they would all go ballistic if a salary freeze was suggested.
A recent MRC de la Vallee report reveals that, for the many impoverished villages north of La Peche, the average disposable income of an inhabitant is less than $23,000. This report also states that elected politicians for the MRC des Collines are the highest paid of Quebec’s 87 MRC’s director generals – of those, the MRC de la Vallee has the highest governance costs. Its elected officials and municipal director generals suck up about $1.4 million annually in costs – to manage only 19,600 people. Pontiac MRC is not far behind. This cost is more than for governance of such major cities as Gatineau and Laval.
The report states that the population of West Quebec villages is so heavily taxed that there is no money available for the MRCs’ number one priority – development. It states that there is only one obvious solution to obtain money for development (and to increase MRC staff salaries), which is to cause our villages to amalgamate. No mention of reducing current MRC wasteful spending.
The Pontiac MRC has been openly discussing amalgamation over the past year, and some form of public vote may be taken as part of the imminent municipal election process. Most folks in the MRC de la Vallee are not aware that a meeting of their mayors and councillors was held on this topic recently in Maniwaki where, without any study or public consultation, attendees were asked to record their preferences as to amalgamate their villages into one, two, or three municipalities. What is good for your mayor is good for you – whether you like it or not.
After the November elections, the first order of business for elected officials will be to determine the amount of increased remuneration for themselves.
Ed. note: Steve Connolly is resident of Low, Quebec, and a former councillor.