Thursday, November 17, 2005

MLAs' secretive pay grab an abuse of public

VICTORIA - You have to wonder if the Liberals and NDP lost their collective mind in their rush to raise their salaries.
In the morning the government admitted that 713 children's deaths weren't properly investigated, their files forgotten in a Victoria warehouse.
And in the afternoon both parties rammed through a 16-per-cent pay raise for all MLAS, taking their base to $86,580.
Most will get extra money for heading up committees, or filling party posts, with a half-dozen MLAs getting pay jumps of at least 30 per cent.
Premier Gordon Campbell will see his pay jump 22 per cent to $146,000 on April 1; NDP leader Carole James and cabinet ministers are up 15 per cent to $131,000.
MLAs also restored their pension plan, even though the Liberals led the crusade to get rid of the former plan.
I have no problem with a raise. Most MLAs sacrifice much to do the job, personally and financially. Their pay should reflect that. And a sensible pension plan also makes sense.
But this was a bushwhacking. Every one of these people ran for office six months ago knowing what the compensation was. None of them suggested that one of their first priorities would be to get down to the business of increasing their pay.
And the entire deal was reached in secret meetings of a legislative committee, with not one word of public discussion or debate. No outsiders were involved; no independent review was done.
MLAs even voted unanimously to suspend the normal rules of the legislature to get the increase approved in 51 minutes. The rules require bills to be debated over several days, to allow public debate and sober second thought.
The change sets the stage for continued big increases.
The MLAs voted to set their pay from now on at 60 per cent of the salary of federal MPs. But federal MPs salary increases are already controversial. They've linked their pay rates to federal judge's salaries, which are set by a commission and have been soaring.
It's remarkably brazen, and unfair to the public. Why not a discussion of linking MLAs' pay to the average weekly wage in the province, so they gained as all British Columbians gained?
Or why not appoint a commissioner - the route taken in the past - to look at MLAs' pay and come up with public recommendations?
The secret deal stinks.
And it is going to create massive headaches. Don't forget that every public sector contract is up for renegotiation over the next seven months. Teachers, for example, fresh from their legislated contract with no pay increases, will soon start their next round of talks.
And predictably enough BCTF head Jinny Sims says the union will now be looking for 15 per cent. Doctors, nurses, government workers can now say that all they want is the same increases that MLAs voted for themselves.
Since MLAs felt no need to justify their proposed increase to their employers - that's you - the unions can make the same demand.
There's no easy way for politicians to increase their pay, and some people will object to any raise, no matter how well-deserved.
But this secret surprise deal violate the principle of openness, transparency and fairness to taxpayers. There is no clear justification offered for the big increases, beyond the fact that MLAs thought they deserved more money.
The pension plan was re-introduced in the same rushed, secretive way. MLAs voted to bring back a pension plan without even knowing what it would cost taxpayers.
The Liberals and New Democrats stood together, with MLAs voting unanimously for the increase, so no party comes out ahead or behind.
But politicians all lose. This is the kind of behaviour that rightly fuels cynicism. This is an obvious case for third party review, an informed public discussion and some common sense.
Instead British Columbians were kept in the dark as MLAs failed to recognize their duty to the public.
Footnote: MLAs also approved a 40-per-cent increase in funding for constituency offices - badly needed for many large rural ridings - and big increases for political support staff. No justification was provided.


Anonymous said...

Words cannot express my anger at this abuse. Having just lost two weeks' wages, and having been called a criminal to boot, I cannot fathom how I am supposed to rationalize this bit of boondoggle-ry. Supported unanimously by both parties in the house, no less.

Remember, my bargaining unit could not even talk about a wage increase. Other union members had wages rolled back.

Also remember (wag the dog-like?) that these are the same people who completely botched reporting on the deaths of at least 700 vulnerable children, as you have reported. This is merit pay? They merit being fired...NOW.

Speechless? Hell no, Im mad as hell and I'm telling evety one I know to speak out.

To my fellow citizens: remember this day on May 17, 2009.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the person "loofasuitsu"

The gall of the folks who are supposedly working to improve things for the poor, the elderly and the sick.They mprove things by taking a large raise. They don't have to negotiate, they simply pass a law.

I would expect such things from the New Era gang, but for the NDP to sell out so easily really rankles a lot of us. What other backroom deals have been going on or will go on? Ask hard questions, get no answers, then go for a beer together.

One of the dumbest suggestions this morning was that James signed on so the unions will have a bench mark for their negotiations. That sounds more like spin doctors at work.
My MLA happens to be Ms. James. she was supposed to be setting a higher level of government. Higher as is more money for her caucus.

Gordo was sitting there yesterday looking as smug as usual. He already knew the New Improved Opposition was on the take just as his gang. What really upsets me is the folks waiting for years for surgery ,( me included) many of those procedures could have been carried out with the money the elected folks, who as Paul said, knew the pay scale when they ran a few months ago hadn't jumped into the trough.

Oh we want to get elected to right some things that are wrong. Sure Ms. James, sure Gordon. No wonder folks say "don't vote , it only encourages them." One NDP member not even in the front row, Sue Hammel got a bigger raise that the total of my two federal pensions after 35 years. Shame on you all.

You have blown your credibility for some money. I'm not religeous but if I recall Judas sold out Christ for 40 sheckles. James and the rest of them got a considerbale amount more than Judas ever got. The citizens of BC who work for a living or exist on small pensions got sold out.

When the Liberals had a massive majority they didn't go for the gold rings. No they waited till they could get just as greedy a person in the opposition. Last night we heard from Corky Evans how she is tought. She's tough all right but easily bought.

To see Mike Farnsworth, a guy who spent the last years showing folks how democratic government would work in their little countries, tell us it was hard but we had to do it. One hopes those other countries don't read BC Hansard.

You MLA's a pox on your collective houses. You all figure this will go away by the time you get back in the warm house complete with aids running your errors. I don't think so. and you can go back to calling each other honourable.

Anonymous said...

So, ... dya think we're the only lugheads here??

Shouldn't someboby have, like interceded here. At some point?

How'dya vote today?

Anonymous said...

I have trouble even expressing my feelings on this subject. I too just lost two weeks wages and was labelled a "criminal". I returned to huge classes with up to seven students with special needs in each class and no aide. Nothing has changed I get 0,0..nothing. The students got nothing. It hurt and I feel the constant increases in Hydro, Gas, Insurance etc..
The MLA's already pay more in taxes than I gross annually.
Shame on them all. Now I will be more than ready next time to be a criminal, and stay on a picket line for the "minimum" pay increase of 15%. At least I, and my family, will feel better when I go back to the crisis teh Liberals have created in my workplace.

Life in Victorola said...

I strongly believe that MLAs earn every cent of their salary and more. How many of these commentators in high dudgeon would spend a week in an MLA's shoes? Volunteers?

I also happen to believe that instead of selling our resources and infrastructure (BC Rail, Terasen Gas, BC Hyrdo, etc.) we should spread the wealth in this province and give every public servant (earning less than 100K per year) and person on welfare an equivalent 15% wage increase and generous pension allowances just like our MLAs deserve.

That would continue to prime the pumps and make our economy stronger and not weaker as the right whingers maintain.

I think it is bitter anti-politics to attack MLAs as earning too much when senior management in this province routlinely earn six figure salaries without comment. Who's more important Ronald MacDonald or your locally elected MLA? Should everybody's salary be reviewable by a third party?

Having said that, I think Carole James' reversal is embarassing. What did she not know when she voted for Bill 17 that she now knows today? Nothing.
A pathetic flip flop.

For once, I agree with Campbell (though I hate to say it). He thinks MLAs deserve it and he's right and he will not ( so far ) succumb to public pressure on this particular issue.

Rather than begrudge the MLAs pay / pension increase, we should insist on sharing the wealth with all other public servants so that a living wage for all people in BC is a possibility, not just a privilege of the management class.