Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Days of restraint, austerity and net-zero

There was a time in British Columbia when creative and ambitious people aimed to be involved in productive entrepreneurialism. Perhaps manufacturing, construction, resource extraction, distribution or other activities that created and delivered products to consumers. The roles are still valid but focus of the most ambitious people has shifted from production of tangible goods to the endless refining and shuffling of intangibles. They see big money in peddling advice and influence, not from from making and selling products.

This fact really hit me when I observed sessions of the Braidwood Inquiry and Cohen Commission of Inquiry with their near endless lines of lawyers, patronage seekers and other beneficiaries. Neither examination was about seeking truth or conducting actual inquiry, it was about the symbolic process of apparent investigation within a system dedicated to spin doctors, lawyers and bureaucrats. Millions of dollars spent; little of value created. Had government mailed $20 million to random households across the nation, Canada's economy would have been more effectively stimulated.

Of course, my notion grew stronger as I examined the financial management of British Columbia's public affairs. Whether or not it is Pavco, BC Ferries, BC Hydro, BC Investment Management, public/private partnerships, health administration, etc., it is clear that taxpayers are badly served. So too are people dependent on delivery of efficient and effective public services and most of the public servants who do the work.

However, efficient management is not the aim of modern government. In BC, the present objective is to deliver wealth into the hands of friends and supporters and punishment to the backsides of the rest. For important insiders, days are good; salaries, pensions and expense accounts grow. Double and triple dipping abounds and insiders bounce from being regulators to being regulated, from being facilitators to being facilitated, and back again. Sweetheart deals become business as usual and people at the top know good things come to the quiet and the patient. No one speaks out for fear of losing opportunity.

In 2000, controversy reigned when the spendthrift NDP allowed its Deputy Ministers a 2% increase, bringing the salary of the highest paid bureaucrat to $152,000. In today's dollars, that is the equivalent of $198,000. Under Christy Clark's leadership, BC's five highest paid public servants today average well over $1 million each with Doug Pearce, head of the province's investment agency, highest at $1.6 million. Incidentally, the highest paid civil servant in the UK, also the chief investment officer, earns one third Pearce's income.

Outside the dome of privilege, the herd is left on its own. Pay more, expect less, get less. That's the role for most of us in the modern economy.










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23 comments:

  1. I wonder if our fellow citizens will ever stand up and say enough is enough and we're not going to take this any longer.

    This week Liberal MLA Linda Reid was caught charging taxpayers thousands so she and her husband could travel the world first class. Wonder how much other waste is hidden in those millions of expense we pay for politicians and senior civil servants.

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  2. A person has to wonder how long it will take for the people here to become like those in the Ukraine and all the other countries around the globe. Municipal, Provincial, and Federal it doesn't seem to matter to those people, as long as they get theirs the rest of us can go to hell. Entitlement, greed and immorality seem to be the way of the world and of Canada. They say "every dog has its day", well ours seems to be a long time coming. Depressing really.

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  3. I often wonder if these simplistic comparisons and growth charts would exist if the NDP made it government. There were increases in salaries of similarly paid people when the NDP was in power, such as John Laxton who was an NDP crony supposedly leading BC Hydro.

    These series of graphs certainly prove one thing. The NDP did need to be elected as government.
    It would be interesting to see these types of graphs applied to NDP appointees.

    Would the NDP continue on with the excess waste and high salaries? Would be worthy to corner both Horgan and Farnworth on it, to get a straight answer that would mean anything. Would these graphs exist within an NDP government? Probably not.

    The NDP once in government will keep the trough filled. The pigs will come Same trough, different pigs.

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    1. Then, I guess we should give up. Let people in power take whatever pleases and comforts them. Don't change anything, go with the proven crooks because anyone else might be similar. Hey, I just explained the May election.

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    2. Your comment resembles the words that might come from Keith Baldrey. It's interesting how people analyze the past 13 years with lame conclusions like... " what if the NDP were elected ". That's like saying what if Christy Clark was found guilty of rigging her bid for the party leadership....... would there be less scandals then we have witnessed over the past years ?
      Or how about..... what if the Liberal party had not accumulated the biggest debt in BC history..... would we have less increases in service fees ?

      Maybe you should start asking those questions before you start judging a "what if" situation. Look at what has occurred over the past 13 years and ask yourself..... why did the BC Progress Board ( a board consisting of business people appointed by the Liberals * disbanded by Christy ) in it's final report suggest that BC was better off in the 90's than we were in the 10 years of Liberal management...... or is that mismanagement ? Maybe you're right.... "what if the NDP " were in power today... maybe we'd be better off.

      Guy in Victoria

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  4. It seems it has come to a point where morals and scruples and fellowship and selflessness has become totally abandoned at all levels of government. How it crept in, and the point at which it took over, I do not know. But it reigns in this country. It is pervasive.
    And it seems those who can scream loudest and longest win the battles and wars. Jenny Kwan was crucified by the lound and long screaming Liberals just a week ago, but will the same happen in the Linda Reid similar situation. No it won't because the NDP won't scream as loud and long as the Libs, and the Libs will diffuse their member's wrongdoing. And people will simply remain mute and let it happen. Just watch.
    The haves and have-nots. The reason why change, for better or worse, is happening in poor countries is because those people are down to the point where they have nothing left to lose but their lives. When you have no food, no clothing, no roof over your head, disease, starvation, filth, nthing but your life, you may as well put it on the line and fight. And it is that predicament that so many find themselves in that brings them to form a mass, a majority, and the will and determination to overthrow the corrupt.
    We in Canada do not have a clue what it is to reach the brink, go through that barrier and continue on. We have always had. We do not know, at least not yet, what it is like to not have. However the corrupt who are bleeding our province and country dry are bringing us to that have- not status quicker than most realize.
    We are now a have-not in this respect: We do not have a democracy. We do not have corruption-free government. We do not have a population which has been brought to its knees and forced to put its collective life on the line to survive. But it's coming. Because no one gets a free ride Charlie Brown.

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  5. Franklin D Roosevelt once said "People who are hungry and out of work are the stuff of which dictatorships are made". For his time, he was right (eg. Hitler). Now, it seems to have been turned on its head. "People who are wealthy and full of arrogance are the stuff of which dictatorships are made". The rest of us have been persuaded that we have no voice and no real influence. Change that, and everything changes.

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  6. So a Deputy Minister to the Premier in the BC Provincial Government makes a yearly salary of over $550,000; we pay someone over half a million dollars a year? Why am I paying a public servant 1500% more than my own salary? Everyone has 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week; days aren't longer for public servants are they? What does he do every day to warrant that kind of salary?

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  7. I've said it before and I'll say it again.....pay me half of that salary. I wager I will be able to do 80% of the duties of that Deputy Minister (with an acceptable level of competence and a higher degree of integrity) within 2 months on the job....no prior instruction. I wager many of the commenters here could do the same. They are not saving lives....as a matter of fact they aren't so much as picking up a wrench to bolt something together. No value added to goods/materials. If I don't perform you can fire me......with appropriate severance package of course.

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    Replies
    1. Since NDP is at the beginning of a leadership, why not ask the contenders the real questions rather than hoping for squishy answers that do nothing to let the voters know who it is they will be voting for in the next election?

      Has nothing to do with the BC Liberals. The aim here is to put the NDP's Leadership contenders' feet to the fire and see what their positions are.

      There have been many suppositions and what ifs from The Left towards the BC Liberals. For once let's see what suppositions and what ifs there are towards the NDP contenders.

      Put the NDP into the bright light of the spotlight for once.

      Delete
    2. Let's deal in reality, not supposition. Here's one thing, based on the public record, that we can put in the spotlight.

      In 2000, last year of NDP administration, the highest paid public servant in BC earned $152,000. In the fiscal year April 2012 to March 2013, the highest paid public servant in BC earned $ $1,582,126. A number of others earn more than $1 million. The five top paid executives at BCimc earned on average $20,000 a month more than each did two years before.

      In today's dollars, Pearce's remuneration is between 700% and 800% more.

      Delete
    3. Well true. But why compare 2000 dollars to 2014? Is it the same person exactly in 2000 and in 2014? The person who has the job in 2014 may bring more experience than the person who had the post in 2000.

      While some of the renumeration I will agree is excessive, the comparisons are a bit off, since the matrix of the position (responsibilities) may have changed.

      So why wasn't this brought forward by the NDP in the last election (i.e. if elected they would end the excessive salaries)?

      Would be a great topic of discussion during the NDP Leadership. What does Horgan take on it? Farnworth?

      Delete
    4. Any comparison needs a common datum, whether it be in 2000 CAD or 2014 EUR....otherwise trends are meaningless. I find it hard to believe any of these positions are so complex that there is enough headroom to make use of 100% increase in skillset and subsequent pay, nevermind 800%. I see many of the positions have been held by a person of the same name which leads me to believe they are indeed exactly the same person. Why wasn't this brought forward by the NDP in the last election? That is a valid question. Why is this information not regularly brought up by our "professional" journalists? An equally valid question. The particular group of people in power are not a political party per se, they are just "networkers" out to take advantage of unknowing (and for the time being, complacent) taxpayers ……without the onerous requirement of providing “industry standard” perfomance.

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  8. UNCONCIENCABLE!! Who do these people think they are - hockey players? There may be 24 hours in a day, and 7 days in a week, but I wonder how many of those hours are consumed with 'work'? I'd bet these $800/hr wizard's efficiency drops off considerably after a few 16 hour days, as would anyone else's.
    Most, if paid on merit, would starve to death.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I see from the comments that we all see what is wrong, but expect someone else to take action.
    Good way to see none. Friends, it is up to each and every one of us to stand up, don't expect the next guy to do it. Maybe if we each start something viable, others will follow. Worth a try, eh?

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  10. Yeah, the Oprah Winfree theory: “if we all just smile at the next person we see there will be eternal peace.” Trouble is, sheep don’t smile.

    If only, in the next round of elections, we could muster enough voters to throw out EVERY incumbent, at every level regardless of party, competency or looks. That would send a fairly solid message that we’re done with them all, I think. Trouble is, the damn sheep again.

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  11. Craig James, clerk of the legislature and adviser to those warm bodies who spend weeks at the legislature each year, is a vital advisor to Linda Reid. To show where he comes from, here is a quote from the Vancouver Sun:

    "British Columbia’s former chief electoral officer spent more than $40,000 on travel in just four months, including airfare for his wife to join him at a conference in Kenya."

    Craig James is also know for criticizing the Auditor General because James found major fault with management of the legislature's finances.

    There is a sick culture of entitlement in Victoria and both Liberals and NDP are responsible. Citizens must stay stop, in no uncertain terms.

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    Replies
    1. That second last paragraph should read "because the Auditor General found major fault with management of the legislature's finances."

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  12. Some observations:
    1) By displaying the earnings in two-year increments, the totals are misleading. To date, at least one of the other comments displays the assumption that the columns show the single year earnings. (What do they say about lies, damn lies, statistics, and statistical charts?)
    2) The data themselves are misleading, as they do not account for the fact that the individuals may have moved to positions of greater responsibility over the ten years represented. As but one example, John Dyble (first in the list of individuals plotted) was not the Deputy Minister to the Premier in 2004; he was appointed to that position in 2011. At least a portion of the increase in his salary over that period is due to the increases associated with promotions.

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    Replies
    1. It actually gives a more accurate representation of the trend of salary changes because government may give nothing one year and an a substantial increase in the next year. That happened in BC recently because Liberals didn't want to show significant increases for management before the 2013 election when they were trying to convince unions to settle for net-zero. Soon after the election, they provided big raises to many senior bureaucrats. Those have not yet been made public in detail.

      How do you explain the long term trends during times when non-management personnel were being restrained, by statute in some cases.

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    2. A double standard has been applied by the government. People like privatized administrators and HEU workers lost their livelihoods in the name of economic efficiency while managers making those decisions had their salaries and pensions go up, way beyond the rate of inflation.

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    3. There's got to be a better way to represent the long-term trend. Is the salary information available for the same positions going back a decade or longer (i.e. into the NDP era)? Using my example, it would be enlightening to compare the increase in the salary going back in time for the Deputy to the Premier to the increases that the rank and file (both union and non-union) of the BC government received.

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    4. In the article I noted the highest paid public servant in the last year of NDP administration earned $152,000 in 2000. He was the Premier's chief of staff.

      John Dyble, chief of staff to BC Premier, earns over $300,000 a year, about 50% more in current dollars.

      Some modern comparisons: The most senior adviser in Obama's White House earns $190,000. The top adviser to Britain's Prime Minster David Cameron earns $215,000. (Converted to Canadian dollars.) American population is about 314 million, Britain's is 65 million. BC's is 4 million.

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