There are some things that happen that just boggle one’smind. The recent MLA pay raise fiasco in BC is certainly oneof them. Voting a pay raise without any publicdiscussion? What were they thinking, or were theythinking?

It doesn’t even require a third gradeeducation to know that a pay hike for public servants isone hot potato of an issue that is bound to irritate ahuge segment of the electorate at best, and make themdown right hostile if not handled carefully. Sneaking itpast them without any debate is a guaranteed formula foran uproar.

Is anyone surprised that when the publicfound out the MLA’s phones started ringing off of thehook with angry constituents on the other end? The onlygood thing that one can say about this whole mindlessaffair is that when the reality set in the deal wasundone and apologies were given.

The fact is that under normal circumstances a pay raisefor MLAs could probably be justified, and a lot morefunding for constituency business and for research wouldbe a benefit to all of us. However, after having cutsocial services, voided public service contracts, andforced settlements on the teachers and other publicworkers, dipping into the trough for a pay increase is apretty cavalier act.

It is even more so for those in thelegislature who were party to the act reducing theminimum wage to a six dollar “training wage” in the lastgovernment. Shame on them.

Of course, these very same legislators from the 2001-2005government were the ones who gave themselves a pay raisewhen taking office last time. They are the ones whoraised the salaries of appointed bureaucrats whilegutting the rank-and-file workers. They are the oneswho are responsible for hiring managers in various crowncorporations and agencies at exorbitant salaries with fatcompensation packages. Perhaps they were just trying tocatch up with those they have appointed.

There are many people, of course, who would be incensedat any pay increase, any time, for public servants,another fact that is mind boggling. When we look at thepay of MLAs who manage a huge chunk of real estate withover four million people and compare them to managers andexecutives in private business, their pay seems a bitlight. In fact, it is even light compared to someforestry workers, and it is not unknown for an MLA totake a cut in income for the privilege of having thepublic vilify them on frequent occasions.

Perhapsinstead of focussing on MLAs who are in the middle of thepack, the public should be more concerned withcompensation packages being pulled in by managers andCEOs in private industry. That is where the real wasteof resources is taking place. People who make in themultiple hundreds of thousands and millions of dollarsper year are stealing from us all much more then anypublic servant.

Some would make the argument that private salaries comeout of private pockets, not tax dollars, so the public — meaning the taxpayers, meaning all of us — is not payingfor it. Dream on, there is only one set of pockets, andit is private. Whether it is being picked by usthrough government in the form of taxes, or by privateindustry in the form of profits, it is still being picked.

The big difference is that when it is picked by privateenterprise rather then public, more of the proceeds go toprivate enrichment than to public wellbeing, and formost of us the benefits are fewer.

It is unfortunate for the people of BC that over the pastfew years the government has been shedding itsresponsibility for managing our social infrastructure bycontracting out services to the pickpockets in theprivate sector.

One case in point is the destruction ofthe Medical Service Plan administration. Now it isapparent that the private U.S. firm that they handed itover to is unable to do an adequate job. The operationof this company, Maximus, has been so bad, apparently,that the government has been fining them for failing tomeet standards. What the fines amount to, no one willtell.

The company claims that it has lost millions onthe contract so expect to see either reduced servicesand/or reduced employment and wages for its workers,and/or a renegotiation of the contract at a higher costto BC. Unlike in a public system, profit, not service,is the key element, and that profit ultimately comes fromour taxes.

Speaking of renegotiating, that wonderful Olympic projectthat was so hyped up a couple of years ago is alsoturning into a boondoggle that may prove a pool of quicksand for public money. The committee in charge hasrevised its cost estimates upwards of 50 per cent ofwhat was originally planned, and we are still about fiveyears away from the finished product.

The MLA pay increase manoeuvre was certainly an issue,but, in the bigger scheme of things if public expense iswhat is really the issue, perhaps there are far moreimportant fish to fry.