03 November 2009

That’s one way to stop the bleeding

The House of Assembly pay and compensation commission got its report in on time and out the door very quickly. 

While few people noticed it and normally few people even get it outside of a being defeated in an election, the commission recommended changes to the notion of severance for elected member of the legislature. There’s a whole section on it, in fact, beginning on page 26.

But that  recommendation  and the whole section is odd given that the commission admits right up in the front that:
Public submissions on MHA severance pay, as with pensions, were few. Those who did comment on MHA severance pay felt that it should be one week for each year of service instead of the current one month, to make it more in line with other severance payment provisions in the province.
How few?

Well one, to be exact. (page 27)

One public submission.

As the commission also notes, severance for elected members and even their staffers don’t match other severance since their tenure is typically uncertain.  You never know when you are going to be out of a job.


But as noted around these parts, the number of people  people heading for the door has been noticeably greater during the current administration than in others.  Try twice to three times greater.

And that’s weird because unless you really have to go for a good reason, most politicians don’t just run screaming from the room as did Paul Oram.   Even if their family and their ill health make cabinet too burdensome, they at least try to tough it out in the back benchers somewhere in the hopes things get better. 

Why wouldn’t they stick around?  The work may suck sometimes and the hours are hideous but at the end there is a nice pension and even a tidy little compensation package to get you through the rough patch. 

That’s not being facetious.  Most politicians can’t go back to their old jobs after politics and their next occupations may not be as lucrative as the ones they had before.  As in hockey, you hear about all the star players, but the ones who slagged it out year after year for scale  don’t necessarily fare so well once they leave the dressing room for the last time.

So from out of nowhere – supposedly – a commission comes up with a very specific recommendation on severance that actually goes against what they one public person recommended.

Rather than change the package entitlements to bring political severance in line with the public sector – as the one person suggested -  the commission recommended that
1. The current provisions for the payment of severance to an MHA remain unchanged.
But, then it got interesting. The commission did recommend that
2. An MHA who voluntarily resigns prior to a general election for reasons other than his or her own serious illness or a serious illness in his or her immediate family shall not be eligible for Severance Pay [sic].

If that rule had been in place in 2007, neither Tom Rideout nor Trevor Taylor would have collected any severance.  Paul Oram – who pleaded ill health among other things  - would collect as would Diane Whelan, if she opts to retire soon.

And any politician thinking of running federally would be leaving behind a tidy sum.  Someone in office a couple of years wouldn’t.  But a politician with any time under his or her belt, like say Tom Osborne, would take a severe chop to the money bag.   You can buy a few campaign signs with 15 years of severance.

Now the politicians could still leave but they’d have to stick it out until the next election if they wanted to collect the cash.   That would certainly make a body think twice about a sudden departure for any but the most grave reasons.

Now just to flip back to Paulie Oram, there some curious coincidences.  Paul pleaded ill health.  The commission tied severance to ill health.  Paulie complained about not getting paid enough.  The commission recommended rolling back the July increased and freezing pay until after the next general election.  he certainly had well crafted speaking notes, didn’t he?

But there’s just something a bit odd about the recommendation on severance.  Odd considering that – as the Bolsheviks used to say – there is just no such thing as a coincidence in politics.
Hitting them in the bank account.

That’s one way to stop what is – by any account – a pretty sorry record on people abandoning the ruling party, sometimes at the most inconvenient time.