Taking It To The Street



By Susanna Kelley

When Dalton McGuinty announced he was resigning as Premier and Liberal leader on October 15, he made it clear that any ministers who decided to run for his job would have to resign from cabinet.

It was the right decision, of course. 

A good minister, contrary to popular belief outside the world of politics, works incredibly hard.

It's a killer job in normal times. Every minute of every day is jam packed with cabinet and committee meetings, events, constituency hours, briefings, press conferences, photo ops and parliamentary duties.

These are scheduled back to back to back all-day and late into the evening. 

Business is often done on the run, in the car, racing from event to event.

The days often begin at 7 a.m. with a breakfast meeting and end at 10 or 11 p.m. six or seven days a week.

An evening off is special. 

A day off is a luxury.

And at any moment, a public or political crisis can erupt. The stress is constant.

So there is no way any minister could have done that job while running for Liberal leader.

That's because the job of a candidate running for party leader is, equally, a killer job.

More racing madly from event to event, giving pretty much the same stump speech several times a day to crowds of Liberals, twisting would-be delegates' arms for support, trying to get to each of the 107 ridings across the province in a race against time.

And when they're not moving, leadership candidates are on the phone or the internet doing the same thing electronically.

This Liberal leadership campaign is a particularly short one. The deadline for delegate selection is January 13, with the convention itself planned for January 25-27 in Toronto.

Kathleen Wynne, Glen Murray, Charles Sousa, Eric Hoskins and Harinder Takhar, all ministers, stepped down from cabinet to run for the top job.

A check with each of their campaigns confirms that in doing so, their salaries dropped from the ministerial rate of $165,000 per year to a regular MPP salary of $116,000 earlier this month.

To put things in perspective, the average income of Ontarians is about $40,000.

That means people who are making on average $40,000 per year are paying each of the five a salary that is three times their own while the now-MPPs run leadership campaigns to further their own political ambitions.

Mr. Takhar's spokesperson says he is completing his full MPP duties, and a spokesperson for Mr. Sousa says he has attended several constituency events during the campaign.

But while it is true that as MPPs they may do some constituency work during the campaign period, that is really just about all   they can be doing. The reason is because the Legislature has been shut down since October 15 when Mr. McGuinty prorogued it indefinitely upon his resignation. 

There are no committees meetings to sit through, no house debates or duties to fulfill, no Question Period to attend, no legislation to oversee, and no major initiatives coming forward because everyone knows there will be a new Premier in January.

It is particularly difficult to see the justification for five of the seven candidates to be collecting a full MPP salary on the public dime while they're out campaigning.

They are spending much of their time on Liberal party business, not government - i.e. public - business. 

In reality, taxpayers are paying them full-time salaries while they spend the time trying to enhance their own political careers.

Meanwhile, the two other candidates, Sandra Pupatello and Gerard Kennedy, have no such luxury.

Ms. Pupatello has resigned from her position as Director of Business Development and Global Markets at Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Toronto, according to her campaign staff. 

Note she has resigned, not taken a paid leave of absence. 

Mr. Kennedy is self-employed. He runs his own company, Enterprising for the Public Good.

His campaign spokesperson says Mr. Kennedy "will obviously be working much less throughout the campaign and will therefore earn much less."

(The spokesperson adds Mr. Kennedy has contracts and will delegate and oversee some work still during the campaign.)

All this hardly puts the candidates on a level playing field.

Five candidates are receiving full and healthy salaries paid by the public; two must take a substantial financial hit.

It is quite unfair to Ms. Pupatello and Mr. Kennedy.

But most of all, it is unfair to the taxpayers of Ontario.

You can find Susanna here: 

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 26, 2012

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