I grew up solid, middle class, trips to Disneyworld and dance lessons. Life wasn’t extravagant and I was told no more often than yes. As a child I dreamed of growing up to be wealthy but it was only that, a dream. As the years passed I have worked hard and now have a good job. I have a pension and put money into both RRSP’s and RESP’s. I pay my taxes and take the occasional holiday. Money is tight, and has become even more so over the last few years, where costs have gone up dramatically (gas, hydro, groceries) but my pay hasn’t. I try not to complain, after all, I still have a job. But it is hard not to get angry when you read so many stories about the absurdity, immorality and bizarre financial practices of the people who are being paid to lead and manage, both government and private institutions.
Over this winter, with our usual -25 degrees weather, we have kept our thermostat at a balmy 68 degrees and still our bills increase. We don’t have to go farther than the news to see why. Recently, three Executives from the Ontario Power Generation ,were fired after a damning Provincial Auditor Generals report on the corporation. Since 2005 staff has been cut by 8.5% but executive and senior management has increased 60%. The top 5 executives are eligible to receive pensions ranging from $180,000 to $760,000/year. You would think between the $750,000 to $1 million annual salary they receive, they would be able to put a little away in savings or RRSPs, like the rest of us do.
If money on that scale is hard to wrap your head around, think about this. Montreal mayor, Michael Applebaum, resigned after being charged with fraud. Upon resignation he received a $268,000 payout. Rewarded for breaking the law and taking advantage of the public’s trust. What kind of message does that send?
In December of last year the head of the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto was fired. The reasoning was vague, citing leadership and his negligent running of things. The original budget of $1.4 had ballooned to $2.5 billion. I would think, as the leader, you might have to take ownership of that, and therefore expect repercussions. But to soften the blow of his unsuccessful management he received $477,000 in his severance package. While running the organization he also billed, to taxpayers, $8,561.19 for a Mexican hotel and cocktail party. You know if you go on expedia.com and used medium-market booze instead of the high-end he could have saved a lot. There was also a charge for $1.89 for a cup of tea. Looking at that I say, big deal, $1.89, but then I think, come on buddy, out of your huge pay cheque can you not pull out a toonie for a hot beverage? Why am I paying for that?
It’s not just the exorbitant yearly pay cheques these people make, it’s the extras that are so baffling. One Ontario Hospital Executive, who makes almost $500,000/year also receives free parking at a savings, to her, of $705 annually. Yet the staff member making $35-40,000/year, who works nights, Christmas and Easter and comes to work during blizzards, because health care never closes, pays $520 a year for the privilege to park their car at work. Insult to injury, that is not considered any kind of tax deductible work expense.
My frustration and disdain is not from the amount these people receive it’s the fact that when fired for incompetence, lack of success or outright illegal activity, they are rewarded. Like when the CEO of SNC-Lavalin Group received $5 million severance package for resigning. He left because he was charged with bribery and kick-backs, related to the company. If I get fired, all I get, is a security escort out to make sure I don’t steal a stapler or a pack of post-it notes.
The argument is you need to offer such incentives to recruit the best. If those are the best I say give me $100,000, a parking spot and a pension and I’ll take a shot at it. I may not do much better but I will not steal, defraud or charge the company for my personal trainer or plastic surgery. I say offer a big salary, go ahead ,but then expect those leaders to live off that salary as the rest of us do, no extras beyond what anyone else in the organization receive, and if they screw-up or break the law they go away, no millions, no golden handshake and definitely, no stapler.