Taking It To The Street

No Work, No Pay?  Should Liberal MPPs Be Fully Paid During Prorogation?

by Susanna Kelley

Susanna KelleyOntarians are now heading into their 42nd day, and seventh week, since Dalton McGuinty shut down our elected legislature virtually of his own accord.

The government's business has pretty much  ground to a halt in Ontario now.

No bills are being debated or passed. 

No committees are carrying on the people's business.

No new major initiatives are being put forward.

Most provincial Liberals, either elected or unelected, are consumed with the leadership race to replace Mr. McGuinty.

That includes four former ministers who resigned from cabinet to run for his job.

And while it is true Mr. McGuinty has replaced them at the cabinet table, by virtue of necessity most of those  replacements are caretaker ministers now.

That's because everyone expects another  election fairly soon after the new leader is chosen by delegates during the weekend of January 25th.

In the lead up to an election, government initiatives slow to a crawl.  That's doubly true when the party is changing leaders.

Public servants are not sure in which direction their political masters will want to proceed until they find out who those political masters are going to be.

Hence it becomes a game of ragging the puck until the leadership race and the next election is decided.

So it's clear that other than housekeeping measures, nothing is really getting done in Ontario right now.

The government will point to a settlement with doctors.  However, to achieve that, it had to award another $100 m. more in fees and back down on contentious cuts to some service fees it swore were reasonable just several months ago.

With teachers, it has brought in legislation taking away their right to strike as of the end of this year. That was a big carrot to get them to settle contracts that abide by a wage freeze before the end of the year. 

So let's compare how the Liberal government is treating its employees with how it's treating MPPs.

While it is taking away the right to strike from the province's teachers, it has in effect, by shutting down the Legislature, locked our MPPs out.

During both strikes and lockouts in both the private and public sectors, employees don't get paid.

They struggle by on whatever meagre "strike pay" their unions can give them from a strike fund the employees paid into previously.  It usually isn't enough to pay the rent, let alone stretch to cover anything else.

So why, you ask, are our Premier, his current cabinet and (non) sitting MPPs getting paid full salary while the Legislature remains empty and dark?

The current base salary for MPPs in Ontario is $116,000 annually, although most make more as parliamentary assistants, for heading committees and the like. Cabinet ministers make $165,851 while the Premier earns $208,974 per year.

To be sure, all of these salaries were frozen in 2009 and will remain that way until 2014.

But that was when it was assumed they'd be sitting in the Legislature.

Is it really fair to have everyone else in  Ontario do without wages if they're locked out while another set of employees - politicians elected and paid by the public- gets fully paid because their boss shuts down the place they work?

One can see that opposition MPP's shouldn't be punished for a decision they have nothing to do with.

In fact, both Tim Hudak's PCs and Andrea Horwath's New Democrats have denounced the prorogation and urged the Premier to recall the Legislature immediately.

But why does it make sense that Liberal MPP's - especially the Premier as well as  former and current cabinet ministers who are supporting his decision to prorogue - should be paid full salary during their hiatus?

Perhaps if they were to lose part of their compensation, the Premier might not be so quick to shut down the seat of democracy in this province for indefinitely.

You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley

About Susanna Kelley

Susanna Kelley is Editor-in-Chief and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for Ontario News Watch. A veteran political and investigative reporter, documentary-maker, host and media commentator, Susanna oversees and has final editorial control over all news production at Ontario News Watch. Susanna has reported for the CBC, the Canadian Press and served as Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for TVOntario for 13 years. She has also hosted a number of documentaries for CBC’s The Current, CBC Radio News and TVOntario’s Studio 2. Passionately dedicated to excellence in political journalism, and having covered both Parliament Hill and Queen’s Park, Susanna believes quality political reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. You can find Susanna here: @susannakelley
Posted date : November 19, 2012

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