Silent Spring

The provincial New Democrats, inexplicably, aren't commenting on revelations the three-person MLA pay-and-pension panel changed its recommendations while one of their number was in Europe. But former premier Bill Vander Zalm, 24 hours' columnist Bill Tieleman and the Times Colonist's editorial board are. "It's the process that ought to concern people. Because the process is very flawed," said Mr. Vander Zalm, in an interview this morning on Public Eye Radio. "They ought to do it over again. And, this time, they should have people who are more representative of the average British Columbian" rather than a lawyer, a former judge and a business professor - an opinion shared by the Times Colonist.

Mr. Vander Zalm also knocked the New Democrats for not speaking out about the issue. "I think the NDP has really fallen down on this one. They're certainly not acting as an opposition ought to - and as they used to act when I was there and people before me. It's very much changed from what was and it's totally wrong."

In fact, in a posting on his Website, Mr. Tieleman - the former communications director for the British Columbia Federation of Labour and then Premier Glen Clark - writes, "Even if the NDP wholeheartedly supported the pay and pension package - which it actually opposes - a vigorous opposition would still condemn" the commission process. "And if you oppose the package - which the NDP does - why would you not drive this issue of the Commission's tainted report so as to force the BC Liberals to drop the entire proposal, kill it dead?"

"Where is the public campaign to drop the pay raises? Where are the newspaper and radio ads? Where are the town hall meetings? Doesn't anyone in the NDP realize this is a total political gift? It's possible an aggressive opposition could reverse its fortunes and actually win an election on such a populist issue that appeals not only to its lower-income base but actually crosses BC's traditional political cleavages?"

15 Comments

Why is it most of the journalistic community (like the Times Colonist and 24 Hours) are against MLA's making a fair salary.

Could it be because they don't want politicians making more than your average journalist.

The Pennsylvania pay raise controversy provides a good example of the potential fallout.

http://www.reason.com/news/show/116756.html

:Why is it most of the journalistic community (like the Times Colonist and 24 Hours) are against MLA's making a fair salary."

Fair salary for what? If they didn't like the $72,000 / year that they got, the MLA's could punch out from the public clock.

As Raife said, the actual salaried time is spent in the Legislature and in Committees. Not all MLA's are prominent part of Committees and the Legislature sits (for now) only 5 months of the year.

The MLA spends time in the riding office, but not all day every day, and much of the balance is going to political related events such as business events, bun tosses and the like. Those events are not directly related to the MLA's salaried time, other than to be present at government announcements.


Could it be because they don't want politicians making more than your average journalist."

There's few jouralists that reach $85,000

The recommendation report is seriously flawed as they did not compare apples to apples.

There's no equivalent to an MLA's job in the private sector, for those who complain about taking a cut in serving the province and people, why would anyone vote for such a person?

If such a person asked me to vote for him or her and complained about taking a cut from being in business to being an MLA, I'd say take a hike if that's what means the most to you, a salary cut.

I'll vote for someone else who cares about the community.

These nutcakes who come up with these "could it be statements". They should get out of psychoanalyzing. They're not good at it and go back to sleep.

"There's few jouralists that reach $85,000."

That's not the information I have. I am told that any reporter with Pacific Press who has a byline is being paid at least $85,000 per year. That's really the base rate for any reporter whose name appears in the newspaper.

"Why is it most of the journalistic community (like the Times Colonist and 24 Hours) are against MLA's making a fair salary."

Hey BC Bob, you weren't paying attention. Stop diving into the pros and cons of the result. The problem starts with the process and should not go anywhere further.

This process stinks (newsflash: it has now been documented) and the subject (setting pay for elected representatives) is one that demands nothing other than a non-stinky one.

Set up another process. Get new recommendations and then lets debate them.

"That's not the information I have. I am told that any reporter with Pacific Press who has a byline is being paid at least $85,000 per year. That's really the base rate for any reporter whose name appears in the newspaper"

Reporting for a major paper is competitive amongst the reporters who work there, the Editor decides if the story gets published or not,
so if it doesn't all of the work he or she did goes out the window with just one spoken word.

The major newspaper reporers are expected to get their name in the paper, that's why they are there.

The big names will get the $85,000 but the major papers, but they have slogged it out for quite sometime writing stories for the Spuzzum Spectator before being relieved in knowning they have moved up to the Province or Sun.

With the MLA's, they can literally do very little
and still get paid. Some current MLA's don't do much more than attend business lunches and get their face in the group picture and get the constituency office people to do the leg work.

They do need a salary increment, but not at 29%,
or even 15%.

The taxpayers have more important things to spend their money on, such as health care.

Funny. VanderZalm seemed a tad more concerned about his personal pocketbook when he was in power; ala Fantasy Garden’s but now he seems to have other concern’s

"Set up another process. Get new recommendations and then lets debate them."

How many processes do they need to go through? 30? 40? I guess they'll keep going until there is one that says they should take a pay cut. Then that will be the “representative” committee.

I can just see it. The head of DERA will come out with recommendations that MLA’s make no more than your average welfare recipient. That way we can attract high quality individuals to look after our $35 billion dollars a year. Why invest $100,000 in a qualified individual when you can get someone off welfare for only $25,000.

I'm also sick of the plethora of sanctimonious ex-politicians. Enough already. All these ex-Socred commentators are too much. All they do is blown their own horn about how great they are and were and how bad the new politicians are.

This primary issue is NOT about the massive pay increase being recommended. It is the about the importance and care the Liberals place on setting their salaries, versus the contempt they show for other salary earners in BC. Thats the issue. Indeed, if the Liberals wish to pay as much attention to determining the value of our minimum wage earners, or BC nurses (remember the tearing up of their collective agreements?), that would be an entirely different matter. But they haven't. So it is an obvious case of a double standard, being advocated by a hyprocritical government. Its no wonder citizens have little sympathy for their wages.

The big names will get the $85,000 but the major papers, but they have slogged it out for quite sometime writing stories for the Spuzzum Spectator before being relieved in knowning they have moved up to the Province or Sun.

In answer to Seymour Forrest let me reiterate that the $85,000 figure is not for the big names, but for the smallest names, that is, any reporter with a byline, not some well-known columnist. It's also a dated figure before given to me about two years ago before the recent contract was signed. What the base pay is now, I don't know.

I agree there are many reporters in BC working for small weeklies or bi-weeklies, "shoppers" as they were once called, who aren't making this kind of money. But then they aren't reporting on provincial politics and government from Victoria, are they? The ones who are in Victoria, I would suggest, are all paid at or above the Pacific Press reporter base rate, which is now more than the old $85,000 figure.

You may recall that a few years ago in Ottawa at the time of a raise in pay for federal politicians the reporters were haranguing Jean Chretien about it. He just turned to them and said "you all make a lot more than I do!" and the haranguing suddenly stopped.

Throughout this discussion I have repeatedly said that comparisons need to be made not just with other legislators in Ottawa and the other provincial capitals, but with some jobs in society outside of politics that are seen as responsible and demanding, but not exclusive or "elitist". I have suggested positions such as bank manager, school principal, airline pilot, head nurse, etc., rather than orthodontist or big business executive.

And I have not suggested that our legislators compare themselves to the media people in the press gallery who report on what they are doing, because to do so would undoubtedly result in such a revolutionary increase in political salaries as to dwarf the recommendation for a mere 29% hike.

I have suggested positions such as bank manager, school principal, airline pilot, head nurse, etc., rather than orthodontist or big business executive.

Sorry, Budd. The MLA's do not equate niether of these positions. A person becomes a bank manager after rising through the ranks as a loans officer
or account manager. It's not something that happens right from the end of school.

An airline pilot must have many flying hours in order to even make the small airlines such as Pacific Coast Air, and they just don't take anyone who simply has the hours. There are different levels of pilots, those who fly the Cessna 172 commercially, the Dehavilland Otter, and those who fly the Airbus 320.

A nurse becomes a head nurse simply through long hours and lengthy years at the ER or other division (most go through ER, but not all).

An MLA does not require long hours or previous experience specific to business or professional work to become one. I've seen small business owners, and also railway foreman, and a farmer become MLA's, even a bursar at at university, but also an undertaker and school teachers, all unrelated occupationally to becoming an MLA.

There's no prequisite qualifications for being an
MLA, all it takes is someone who has volunteered time in the community, and has been awarded the post by the voters.

"And I have not suggested that our legislators compare themselves to the media people in the press gallery who report on what they are doing, because to do so would undoubtedly result in such a revolutionary increase in political salaries as to dwarf the recommendation for a mere 29% hike."


You're not really comparing apples to apples. Those reporters in Victoria have been there for quite some time, and their activities are much
different.

To reach the $85,000 level, a reporter must have
obviously had lots of time previously, since it's
not something a reporter would get a year or so out from journalism school.

It's erroneous to compare MLA's to press gallery
reporters since the press gallery's role is quite different than that of the MLA.

The issue of salaries/pensions etc., is simple: the comments from both the dissenting view holder and the Chair of the committee, leave us with no other option than to conclude that the process was tainted by heavy-handedness and expediency. Tough luck, as the recommendations, in my mind, were completely in line with what MLAs should be paid, frothy-mouthed protestations from above notwithstanding. Comparisons with journalists, lawyers, judges, etc., are all ill-placed window dressing on an issue that boils down to recommendations being accepted (or rejected), but only after a transparent process,and this clearly wasn't it.

My buddy Tieleman must have dipped into a few too many bottles of Margaux to suggest that a bloody election is going to be made of this...c'mon Bill, be serious. We're agreed that Carole is useless and that her minions are giving her as bad advice as Gordon is getting on poltical issues emanating from Basi-Virk, that is: "sit and say nothing", but the mere suggestion that she could win an election on anything like this is a real stretch.

Psst! The reason the NDP are so damn silent is because they actually want the money and still be able to make a preposterous stink about it.

And to Kevin Larsen, who mostly posts sensibly, Bill VanderZalm was not " more concerned about his own pocket" while Premier.....he was, in fact, concerned about yours...read the trial documents when he was exonerated. Have a look at what successive Premiers have done since--notice any resemblance in some key areas? Of course you do: robust economy, big ticket mega-projects, hold off metastasizing of union interests, etc. Even Glen Clark badly pissed off some of his union buddies when they didn't "get everything", and that's why the NDP may blow up if James stays on any longer. She wants a too-new, too different NDP, and the hardliners won't budge. If it wasn't for the FastCats, Glen Clark may have gone down the WAC Bennett trail...

If you want the truth, Kevin, about how VanderZalm's fall was part self-inflicted, part personal vendetta by a major media personality of the day, part personal vendetta by a major political figure, you'll have to wait for my book one day. None of those factors could ever simultaneously evolve like that again for anybody.

You really don't pay much attention, do you Seymour? You said:

It's erroneous to compare MLA's to press gallery reporters since the press gallery's role is quite different than that of the MLA.

Yet I also said that media personalities would not be a viable comparison base for BC's MLAs, since their pay is so much larger. You will note that in none of Vaughn Palmer's or Mike Smyth's columns on the MLA pay issue do they bother to tell readers how much they are making for covering BC politics.

In rejecting occupations like bank manager or pilot you're really failing to see the forest for the trees, quite intentionally I might add. You can easily argue that these jobs are different than that of an MLA, and of course they are in their particulars. But as you well know, that isn't the point. The point is do these jobs, or some other group of jobs, represent a comparison base that the public would find acceptable in terms of the overall level of compensation and status that they think is appropriate for their provincial legislators?

If you reject all other jobs in society as a comparison base, you're left with just one. Other politicians, which is the comparison base this commission used.

I would argue that very few people become a MLA or MP for the money. They do it for the perceived power and influence that they will have and for future opportunities as a lobbyist or an organ grinder for Jimmy. Offering an extra $30K or even $50K a year in salary won't make any difference in the quality of people applying for the job.

Tie MLAs pay increases to the average increase in take home pay of the average voter if you want some meaningful measurement.

"Yet I also said that media personalities would not be a viable comparison base for BC's MLAs, since their pay is so much larger. You will note that in none of Vaughn Palmer's or Mike Smyth's columns on the MLA pay issue do they bother to tell readers how much they are making for covering BC politics."

It's not applicable to the subject of MLA's salaries, since the role of a reporter and MLA are quite different and are not equable to each other.

"In rejecting occupations like bank manager or pilot you're really failing to see the forest for the trees, quite intentionally I might add. You can easily argue that these jobs are different than that of an MLA, and of course they are in their particulars. But as you well know, that isn't the point. The point is do these jobs, or some other group of jobs, represent a comparison base that the public would find acceptable in terms of the overall level of compensation and status that they think is appropriate for their provincial legislators?

No, since the MLA's job is not equable, and its actually not something a person really makes a career of. There are few MLA's that have lasted 20 years. A person decides to become an MLA to (hopefully) serve the province, not to aspire to
ascension in professional ranks as do the bank
manager or pilot.

In fact the pilot's position, partiuclarly if he or she gets to handle the jets is far more complicated than that of the MLA.

"If you reject all other jobs in society as a comparison base, you're left with just one. Other politicians, which is the comparison base this commission used."

The commission did not use other MLA's or MP's salaries 100% exclusively and that's big problem. They erred in comparing an MLA to a business CEO.

It is a matter of comparing to what MLA's in Alberta and other provinces get in relation to their legislature's representative size and the volume of comparable work. The same can be said to compare MP's, but MP's districts are twice that of an MLA's in surface area, on average.

I'm for MLA's getting a wage increase, but not 29% and certainly not equitable to what a senior airline pilot or 20 year bank manager of a large bank branch would get, simply because the MLA does not complete the same tasks nor does the
MLA have the same level of responsibility. An MLA
can easily sit around and do nothing for four years and still pocket the $72,000. I've seen some
MLA's get close to that.

and yes I've known one major airline pilot who did become an MLA.

I'd say an increase of 5% to perhaps 10% would more acceptable to the voters.

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