Saturday, November 19, 2005
There was no warning, no real debate and no dissenting votes. The British Columbia Members of the Legislative Assembly voted themselves an outrageously large pay increase, including a gold-plated pension package which the Premier had once campaigned against.
Politicians voting in their own pay packages has always been a sore point with the electorate, but this event turned the stomachs of even those least interested in the BC political scene. Even the pundits were shocked. The public has responded with overwhelming disgust, something which the government and the opposition say they find surprizing.
REALLY?! What bloody planet are these people from? That's not "out of touch" with the electorate; that's "totally removed" from reality. This all comes on the heels of an acrimonious and illegal work stoppage by BC teachers and several more "imposed" contract settlements on other public service employment groups. So, while the government has been out union-busting, with a good deal of public support and an opposition barely issuing a whimper, they were all working the back room together to refill their personal trough.
Carole James, however, demonstrated that the New Democratic Party of BC is still being controlled by those not holding office. Less than 24 hours after wholeheartedly supporting the pay package, she withdrew her support. Pretty radical for someone who had supported it through committee, onto the floor of the House, through a unanimous vote and then through the doors.
That was... until the BC Federation of Labour heard about it. While James says she had thought about it and realized it was wrong, the truth is that the BC Fed president Jim Sinclair was fuming. No matter what James or Sinclair would like us to believe, the NDP leader's change of heart was imposed on her. She's not being truthful and Sinclair is suddenly being very quiet. If nothing comes of this outrage, at least we can see that the NDP is still very much in bed with the BC Fed.
The worst effect of this self-serving piece of legislation is that any chance of labour peace in the province has just been wiped away, particularly since a huge group of public service employees are entering negotiations for new contracts this spring.
There were, of course, those politicians who felt compelled to use an old argument when giving themselves a trough-filling wage increase: "MLAs need good remuneration if we are to attract good and qualified people into provincial politics."
If that is the case, we should expect that not one name from the current people occupying seats in the BC Legislature will appear on the ballot in the next provincial election. We shouldn't have to choose between two different colours of pond scum.