Calgary 'sunshine list' in political limbo, fate of salary-disclosure plan to be decided in October
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Calgary’s proposed version of a “sunshine list” was thrust into political limbo Tuesday as members of city council reached a stalemate over whether the move would be a worthwhile step toward greater government transparency or a hypocritical waste of time and money.
That question will now fall to a full meeting of city council next week, after the city’s priorities and finance committee couldn’t decide on a course of action for the proposed list, which wouldn’t disclose actual salaries, but rather salary ranges of city employees.
Exempt from that list would be members of the Calgary Police Service, employees of Calgary Public Library, and staff at civic partners like the zoo and convention centre.
The proposal is a modified version of an idea initially raised by Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart earlier this year, in the wake of the Alberta government’s move to publish six-figure salaries of its staff online, similar to existing practices in Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.
Unlike those provinces, however, Alberta didn’t order municipalities to do the same, something Colley-Urquhart described Tuesday as a “superficial effort” that left the city in awkward position of trying to come up with its own policy.
She said the proposed salary-range disclosure offers a “good balance” between transparency for the public and privacy for city staff, but other councillors had numerous concerns.
Coun. Ward Sutherland questioned the value in creating such a list – which city staff figure would require three full-time positions to create and one part-time position to maintain – when salary ranges for city positions are already publicly available through job postings and other means.
“I think it’s not really a great investment of money because we’re not really releasing anything that you couldn’t find out anyway,” he said.
Coun. Druh Farrell, meanwhile, said council would be hypocritical to enact such a policy.
While councillors’ salaries are already disclosed (they make $111,066 per year plus numerous benefits and allowances), Farrell noted municipal politicians have not been “paragons of transparency” when it comes to disclosing campaign financing prior to elections or maintaining a mandatory registry of lobbyists.
“I think that council should be leading by example,” she said.
Committee members rejected the salary-disclosure plan by a 4-4 vote Tuesday (ties count as defeats) and then also couldn’t agree on an alternative course of action, voting instead to send the matter, without specific recommendations, to Monday’s full meeting of the 15-member city council.