A commission divided

Sue Paish, the chair of the controversial MLA pay-and-pension panel, confirmed today the commission's final recommendations were hammered out while one member was in Europe. But Ms. Paish says Sandra Robinson was invited to participate in that discussion via teleconference. "And she just didn't want to discuss it. And I don't know why," said Ms. Paish, in an interview with Public Eye. Although she added Prof. Robinson, a faculty member at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, "made it very clear to us...that she would not be agreeing with the report, she didn't want her name attached to it, she didn't want any reference to her in the report."

Ms. Paish also confirmed the three-person panel had come to what she called a "preliminary" consensus on April 25, just before Prof. Robinson left for Europe. But she had second thoughts about that consensus after reflecting on pension plan information which had been received by the commission that same day. "I'm a person who takes all the data in and has to reflect, has to put it all together, has to balance things out," she explained. As a result, Ms. Paish says she "wasn't comfortable" going ahead with those recommendations - a conclusion fellow commissioner Joe Wood also reached independently.

Ms. Paish agreed the commission - which submitted its final report on May 1 - was split on the issue of MLA pensions, with Prof. Robinson preferring a less generous package. Ms. Paish said Prof. Robinson didn't have a lot of "experience" with pension plans or the more general issue of "compensation."

"So there was a really steep learning curve on this for her." Ms. Paish also said Prof. Robinson was "really skilled in terms of survey questions and data analysis” and was "extremely helpful” to the commission in that respect.

When asked whether she would release the commission's preliminary consensus, Ms. Paish said, "There's nothing to release cause there was nothing written. And I don't think that serves the public interest at all because" those recommendations were developed "with one commissioner literally with one foot on the airplane, in the heat of the moment, with data coming in."

And what about Prof. Robinson's proposed dissenting report? Why wasn't it written? Ms. Paish didn't have an answer. But she did say she didn't "think it was appropriate to give (Prof. Robinson) every iteration of the draft" final recommendations being written by her and Mr. Wood "without (Prof. Robinson) having the benefit of the discussion. So we went through many drafts on Saturday and Sunday and, even, early Monday. And, without participating in the conversation I didn't think it was fair for her to be receiving these drafts and wondering why something had changed. I didn't think that was fair to her."

Ms. Paish was responding to statements made by Prof. Robinson yesterday, in an exclusive interview with Public Eye.


So this confirms that even the blue ribbon commission was deeply split on the recommendations. Imagine if the Premier had included a couple of regular citizens earning less than $50,000 in that commission to offer a more balanced view of what British Columbians think is reasonable.

Because what looks reasonable from the elegant offices of a downtown law firm or the Leg or UBC sure is different from the view out here. I see a government telling caregivers it can't afford to pay them more than about $2/hour to provide round-the-clock care and support for severely challenging adults and children with developmental disabilities (I'd like to see all those MLAs and Ministers who think they work hard try that job for a week!). I see well-heeled politicians telling single moms we can't afford to provide child care so that they can start trying to lift themselves and their kids out of poverty. The same MLAs who want a gold plated pension tell severely disabled British Columbians that the provincial treasury has absolutely nothing left to fund the community living supports that they need and are entitled to, so they can sit on waitlists with 3,000 others until someone dies and a space comes free. Yes, these are the good folks who sit in their marbled hall in Victoria and tell my child (and 60,000 others like him) that BC can't afford the basic special education supports they need today to have a chance of becoming successful independent adults. And yet we can afford to set aside millions today to pay for their cushy retirements down the road.

...and we know that, of course, because 2 out of 3 of the commission members said so!

So let me get this straight: the chair of the commission is telling us that a business prof doesn't have a lot of "experience" with pensions. Well thank God we had a lawyer and a judge on hand. Because they have a stack of experience regarding egregious overpayment for their work.


Funny how that 'preliminary consensus' turned all ephemeral when it came time to either fish or cut bait.

(and both Ms. Steele and the Perfesser make excellent points)


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