The mayor of Varennes became the highest paid municipal elected official in Quebec in 2022, with a salary of $212,046, dethroning the former mayor of Longueuil, Sylvie Parent, who had held first place since 2018.
Martin Damphousse’s salary may seem surprising, since he heads a town of just over 21,000 inhabitants.
He rises in front of the mayors of all the major cities of Quebec, even if his city arrives in 54e rank in terms of population.
“The mayor of Montreal like others (Editor’s note: Longueuil, Laval and Quebec for example) made the political choice to cap their salaries. It’s their choice,” underlines Mr. Damphousse.
It is by combining numerous functions outside his municipality that he reached the top of the list.
His functions as mayor brought him a little more than $117,000 in 2022, to which is added $94,000 for having been a member of the executive committee of the Metropolitan Community of Montreal (CMM), administrator of the Metropolitan Regional Transport Administration (ARTM), as well as prefect. of the MRC Marguerite d’Youville.
“It’s the addition of functions, that’s all,” explains the mayor of Varennes, who considers his remuneration justified.
During the previous four years, it was the mayor of Longueuil, Sylvie Parent, who was the highest paid municipal elected official in Quebec.
Even though she left office before the end of 2021 due to the elections, she still beat Mr. Damphousse and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
In 2019, MMe Parent committed to reducing his salary after the publication of our first edition of the elected officials’ compensation list. But opposition municipal councilors refused to comply.
Her successor, Catherine Fournier, managed to lower her salary, taking advantage of her majority on the municipal council.
This resulted in municipal councilor Jonathan Tabarah being paid more than her (see other text).
Since a legislative change by the Quebec government in 2018, municipal elected officials can accumulate without ceiling the remuneration associated with their functions.
This is why the mayor of a small town like Varennes was able to occupy the top of the ranking last year, with only some $200 ahead of Valérie Plante.
Before 2018, the mayors of Montreal and Quebec were the highest paid, then various ceilings were established by the government, depending on the size of the municipalities.
“Varennes is a relatively rich municipality,” explains Danielle Pilette, professor specializing in municipal management at UQAM who is not surprised to see Mr. Damphousse at the top of the ranking.
The mayor of Varennes should not remain the highest paid municipal elected official in Quebec for long, since he left aside four functions this year to become president of the Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ).
“It will decrease,” underlines Martin Damphousse, who will still receive the equivalent of $83,849 in annual salary at the UMQ.
Martin Damphousse’s salary in 2022
- Mayor of Varennes – $100,368
- Mayor’s expense allowance – $17,546
- CMM Executive Committee – $35,000
- ARTM Board of Directors – $24,453
- MRC Marguerite D’Youville Council – $16,796
- President of the Mixed Economy Society of the Eastern South Crown – $8,654
- Richelieu-Saint-Laurent intermunicipal police agency – $4,655
- President of the Intermunicipal Drinking Water Board Varennes, Sainte-Julie, Saint-Amable – $2,324
- First vice-president of the intermunicipal council of the regional multisport center – $1,576
- Vallée-Richelieu intermunicipal animal services board – $673
Voting your salary, a discomfort
Municipal elected officials have been uncomfortable voting for a salary increase for themselves since Quebec amended its law in 2018.
“The remuneration of elected officials, decided by elected officials, there is a malaise that exists and will always exist. We see it at the provincial level with the increase of $30,000,” underlines Martin Damphousse, mayor of Varennes and president of the Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ).
Before 2018, different ceilings were set by the government for the remuneration of elected officials, depending on the size of the municipalities.
Martin Damphousse does not believe that we should return to this old model, but admits that the current system is also imperfect.
The mayor of Lavaltrie, Christian Goulet, admits that increasing your salary yourself is thankless.
“It is always difficult for municipal councils to increase their salaries, it is an excessively thankless task,” estimates Christian Goulet, who increased his salary as mayor by more than 50% in 2022 (see other text).
He believes that there should be better supervision of salaries by the Quebec government to avoid “certain excesses”.
“Everyone found it unacceptable to earn $46,000 for a full-time mayor, but it should not necessarily be up to the municipal council (to set the increase),” he judges.
Martin Damphousse judges that this is particularly problematic in small municipalities which have little means to decently remunerate their elected officials.
“Unfortunately, there are mayors who work for ten or fifteen thousand dollars and the work is the same. The government should legislate to establish a minimum floor. As mayor, you have important responsibilities,” judges the president of the UMQ.
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