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Mayor to forgo 3-per-cent Toronto council pay raise

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (left) sweats and laughs with his brother Doug (right) following their weigh-ins marking the start of a 6 month weight loss challenge that Ford and his brother Doug are attempting in Toronto on Monday, January 16, 2012. Rob Ford weighed in at 330lbs and hopes to loose 50lbs by June 18th. Doug Ford weighed in at 275lbs.

Pawel Dwulit/The Globe and Mail

Toronto city council is getting a 3-per-cent pay increase next week, an automatic raise that would have added more than $5,000 to Rob Ford's annual salary if he hadn't decided to reject it.

The mayor's salary was set to rise to $172,803 from $167,770, while councillors' pay is scheduled to increase to $102,608 from $99,620, according to a briefing note sent to councillors this week and obtained by The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Ford's press secretary confirmed on Thursday night that the mayor will not accept his raise.

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The pay increases, which are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, are the first raises for the city's elected officials in more than 18 months.

Councillors voted to freeze their salaries in 2011 and to defer their regularly scheduled pay increases in 2012 until the municipal government reached new contracts with its major unions in the spring.

Deciding what to pay themselves has long been a thorny question for Toronto councillors, but never more so than in the era of Mayor Ford, who sailed to victory in 2010 on promises to cut political spending.

Councillors tried to take the sting out of the issue in 2006 by voting themselves an automatic annual raise equal to the cost-of-living index for Toronto – this year's 3 per cent fulfills that policy.

Mr. Ford might be nearly alone in rejecting his raise. Even the mayor's famously tight-fisted budget chief says now is the right time to grant councillors an increase.

"Given the work that's been done, the [union] settlements that have been made, I think that councillors should be in line for a modest increase," Councillor Mike Del Grande said.

The briefing note shows councillors' salaries have not kept pace with those of the city's unionized employees over the past five years.

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Councillors' pay has risen 8 per cent since 2008, while the inside and outside workers' pay has increased 10.39 per cent in the same period.

Unionized TTC workers and police officers have fared even better, scoring raises of 13.69 per cent and 17.26 per cent respectively over the past five years.

However, the pay of inside and outside workers was frozen this year.

"I think councillors have shown remarkable sensitivity to salary issues in the city of Toronto," said Councillor Norm Kelly, a member of the mayor's executive committee.

"This is Canada's sixth largest government. This is a very diverse and complicated city to run. My colleagues work like dogs. I think the office is worth the $102,000 and, frankly, it's worth considerably more."

Councillor Doug Ford doesn't necessarily agree. He said some of his hard-working colleagues deserve a raise, but not all of them. The mayor's brother, who already donates his salary to charity, said he plans to reject the raise too.

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But the Ford brothers, who inherited a successful printing company founded by their father, don't rely on their political salaries to "make ends meet," Mr. Del Grande pointed out.

"The Ford brothers are in a very different situation and it's magnanimous of them to not take it [the raise] or donate their salary."

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Health reporter

Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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