MRC goes bonkers, taxpayers snooze

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan


Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has reported that municipal governments pay their employees roughly, 22% more than is paid for the same work in the private sector. The CFIB estimates that if municipalities were to bring their salary totals down to equivalence with private businesses, most municipal deficits would disappear. Cities and towns could then start paying down their long-term debt, and all this without begging to higher governments – or cutting services. 
So, while the business sector (those who invest in local businesses) is urging municipal governments to get their own salary levels under control, the MRC Pontiac – the second poorest MRC in Quebec! – has decided to convert its part-time warden to a full-time position, with a salary to be determined, of about $80,000. Plus expenses, supports, and bonuses. 
Is this just what Pontiac needs to do with its citizens’ taxes – double the MRC warden’s salary? Plus another new $80,000 for election costs, since the warden will now be elected by the public, not by the MRC’s other mayors. So here we have the second-poorest MRC in Quebec struggling to create jobs – for one person? This will surely lift us high.
It’s also worth considering that if our MRC is at the bottom of Quebec’s pile, doesn’t this reflect the quality of the leadership we’ve had from that institution – and why would a government that has accomplished so little feel it has every right to give it’s top person a huge raise? Not unlike the bonuses for bureaucrats who created the federal Phoenix pay system?
We do have one consolation, that none of the mayors who voted
for this generous gift will themselves put their hands out for that gift – they surely wouldn’t then run for that very job. That would be gross, a clear conflict of interest, voting for a pay increase that you hope to get for yourself. No mayor would do that; mayors have higher moral standards than that.
Unfortunately several of these very mayors would make excellent wardens!
But we’ll surely remember which mayors voted against this boon-doggle, those mayors who were thinking of their constituents’ ability to pay, not their own possible paycheques.  
Many of my remarks are in humour — as is this entire project, actually. Humour, because morality is irrelevant; this is politics! “It’s just tax dollars,” we’re told, and those who pay taxes don’t pay attention to where they go.
In fact, from a moral point of view, not only should those who voted to create this generous new salary not run for it themselves, but the salary for Warden should be designed to fit Pontiac conditions.  Shouldn’t the salary be based on Pontiac’s average earnings? A warden has a tough job, so pay could exceed the average, but not, say, double what everyone else makes! 
Let’s see how that would work: Pontiac’s averaged real salary is likely less than $20,000? Whoops, today’s part-time Warden already gets more than that!  
No, the real question in the minds of the MRC leadership is not morality, not rationality; it’s about how our MRC will be perceived in Quebec City. That’s another explanation for this – how could our cherished Warden hold his/her head up! – in Quebec City, where even $80,000 is chicken feed. That’s the city with an unlimited supply of financing: keep raising taxes!
 The mayors wisely postponed an expensive construction plan for a new MRC building several years ago. Is it time again for another postponement?