Premier Christy Clark has been in the news recently echoing the sentiments of most hard working British Columbians regarding the outrageous pay increases several of our top paid public servants have been receiving.
She was not impressed with B.C. Ferries president David Hahn's annual $315,000 pension, which he will be eligible to receive at age 62.
I wonder if Clark shares the same opinion when it comes to the obscene 50 per cent pay hike her predecessor, Gordon Campbell, awarded himself before resigning or the 30 per cent pay hike all MLAs received along with a lucrative pension package. Talk is cheap, isn't it?
Most could agree that our MLAs are hard working representatives who want to make our community a better place to live. Some, I am sure, have even taken a cut in pay by choosing to go into public life and for this they should be applauded.
However, there are many in our province that work equally hard, if not harder, for a fraction of an MLA's salary. The fact is our MLAs are exceedingly well paid. They now receive over $100,000 annually for what they do. Cabinet ministers receive substantially more.
Seventy-five per cent of MLAs receive extra remuneration for heading up a committee or taking on additional roles. The premier receives in excess of $190,000 annually. There are many skilled professionals with years of training that only dream of receiving this kind of remuneration.
Over and above this, all of our MLAs receive generous compensation for living expenses, meals, office and travel expenses. MLAs will be eligible for a lucrative pension for having served in politics.
In today's economic climate, or for that matter even when times have been good, I believe these salaries, pensions and perks are difficult to justify in good conscience.
Life in Victoria's legislature remains good despite Finance Minster Kevin Falcon's dire warning: "The net impact of a dropped tax would be an immediate increase in next year's projected budget deficit to $2.56 billion from $925 million." His comment came on the heels of the recent HST referendum results.
"Cuts to government programs and a prolonged period of provincial deficits will be inevitable," Falcon said.
No one is against belt tightening, especially in today's economic climate but let's be fair. Before singling out any one group, I encourage Clark and the Liberal government to look in its own backyard first and start cleaning up some of the excess.
If Clark wishes to gain credibility and earn respectability, I suggest she begin by re-examining the salaries, pensions and generous expense allowances our elected MLAs are receiving and admit these do a disservice to the people of our province.
It would be a step in the right direction if she chose to re-visit the gluttonous pay hikes and gold-plated pension packages the Liberals voted for themselves a few years ago and roll them back so they are not only fair, but respectable.
If Clark wishes to earn the respect of single moms, single dads, pensioners, young families and all honest, hard working British Columbians, she has an excellent opportunity to win the hearts of voters not by using her charm but by walking the walk and setting the example.
David F. Horvath