Kennedy crassly plays cash card

Brian Jones
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Health Minister Jerome Kennedy is so magnificently wrong in his argument with the province’s doctors that, were he back in his old career as a high-profile and overpaid criminal defence lawyer, Crown prosecutors would be eagerly tagging each other so they could take turns delivering whopping body slams to his questionable logic.

Surely, in his previous work as a lavishly reimbursed defence lawyer, Kennedy was accustomed to constructing sophisticated arguments to convince a judge or jury to set his dirtbag client free.

We are witnessing the proverbial dumbing down of politics in action. Kennedy is seemingly drawing on Section 19(a) of the Governing Newfoundland 101 Handbook: “Treat the public with contempt. Voters are stunned.”

We’ve seen this approach before. Whenever politicians have a spat with doctors, the former can score easy points by citing the exorbitant salaries of the latter.

True to form, Kennedy this week trotted out the figures that various medical specialists are raking in, or could soon take in: $180,000, $239,000, $255,000, $276,000.

Any schmuck earning $30,000 or $50,000 or $75,000 must be instantly convinced. Those docs are greedy-guts.

What the good minister ignores, and what he wants the public to overlook, is that the inescapable law of supply and demand affects the salaries of doctors as much as it affects the salaries of other people. If cardiologists were as plentiful as bus drivers, the wage gap between those two professions would be narrower.

Professional athletes are a good illustration. Just as Kennedy laments the earnings of the province’s doctors, many people denounce the huge salaries of athletes as unfair, unjustified and even immoral. (Stock letter-to-the-editor rhetoric: “It’s a sick society that values hockey players so much more highly than kindergarten teachers.”)

Once again, it’s due to supply and demand. Athletes earn what they do because of what they are capable of doing, and because thousands of people are willing to pay to watch them do it. If you could score 50 goals a year in the NHL, while thousands of people paid $100 or $200 per ticket to see you do it, you too could command a salary of $7 million.

Similarly, if you attended med school and spent a decade or so studying to become a medical specialist, you too could command the amounts Kennedy is loathe to pay.

Privacy complaint

It is strange indeed to watch a cabinet minister display wilful ignorance of the intractable power of the law of supply and demand, but it is even more bizarre to see him so crassly ignore the privacy rights of individual doctors.

Kennedy publicly named a doctor and referred to the $95,000 stipend she earns, over and above her regular salary, for teaching part-time at Memorial University. His explanation was that she is paid with taxpayers’ money, and the public has a right to know where their money is going.

But there is a significant difference between revealing the salary range for a public position and revealing the specific amount paid to an individual. By Kennedy’s argument, MUN should now release a list naming its professors, with an accompanying figure showing how much they each earn.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association said it would file a complaint with the province’s privacy commissioner.

In his own defence, Kennedy can refer to Section 27(b) of the Governing Newfoundland 101 Handbook: “Dirty politics is only ‘dirty’ when it is engaged in by your opponents.”

If memory serves, it was merely a week or so ago that the Supreme Leader of all the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians made an impassioned speech in which he condemned the “dirty” tactics of his critics.

But if Kennedy’s approach is deemed “clean,” somebody needs to see a doctor.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Governing Newfoundland 101 Handbook, NHL, Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association The Telegram

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Recent comments

    November 13, 2010 - 12:38

    One simple question for Premier Williams. When do you plan on opening the House of Assembly to deal with thie CRISIS we have in Health care? Then again if the House was open you would have to answer too many hard questions . We all know by now that you dont want to be held accountable for anything so answering questions that you dont want to even have asked is probably wishing for too much on our part. Dictatorships dont need to answer questions or be held accountable to anyone for their actions. All hail Danny.

  • Bernie
    November 13, 2010 - 07:45

    well written Brian. You have a very clear mind and a very apt way to convey it to us peons. When provincial elections come around in the near future I hope us peons will remember what is happening today. It is us peons who hold the balance of power and who will gorvern Danny boy....and Jerome.....and the other are now put on notice.

  • Seriously Come ON
    November 12, 2010 - 15:27

    I am so sick of this comparison to professional hockey players, Mr. Jones you surely can do better than that. First off the players are paid by private owners not the tax payer. Second off if you want to use the comparison how about this, each team has a salary cap that they can't go over so they have to make sure they are paying a fair salary without going over the cap (sound familiar). Finally if you want to make this NHL versus NLMA comparison, you can find out the salary of every single player in the league as it is public knowledge so any GM or owner can say player x is getting this much money and is complaining that he is getting too much ice time and is feeling overworked due to the lack of good players around him. When a player does that guess what usually happens, they are blasted by their GM publicly then traded or sent down to the minors where their careers eventually end.

  • Mr. T
    November 12, 2010 - 14:11

    Fix this crisis. Stop arguing and fix it. Enough said. This shouldn't even be a debate, if we lose these Doctors it will be a major crisis. As a citizen and taxpayer I really do not care how much Doctors are getting paid, I don't care what Jerome Kennedy has to say, and I don't care what the doctors have to say. That's for both parties to talk about behind closed doors. I just want a decent health care system. Losing this many doctors is an absolute crisis, and when this many hard working professionals resign......THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG..........Fix it.......NO EXCUSES.

  • Shannon Reardon
    November 12, 2010 - 13:59

    Ron, you're pretty arrogant. I guess you work for government or Eastern Health with THAT attitude. Brian, right on and write on!

  • Bob
    November 12, 2010 - 13:16

    Ron....thank you for your well thought out intelligent opinion.

  • Geoff Meeker
    November 12, 2010 - 12:13

    Hey Williebean, the issue here is that Premier Williams created this problem, back when he made side deals with pathologists and oncologists. He even acknowledged at the time that was a "dangerous precedent". Brian Jones has summed it up perfectly. Are you prepared to deal with the consequences when these doctors leave, and our health care system is thrown into crisis? Or are you one of the rich elite, who fly away to Florida for your health care?

  • Ron
    November 12, 2010 - 11:47

    And with your attitude, you Mr Jones will always be a lowly paid desk editor in a dead end job that will become redundent. Maybe a bus drivers job will be in your future!!!

  • dave
    November 12, 2010 - 11:09

    Brian you are right on with your train of thought.I am a healthcare professional but not on the level of the Doctors.I have seen many defections over the past few years of specialists in our system,all gave adequate notice.The government has been actively recruiting to fill these positions but to no avail.When resignations are in mass such as they were recently, people get all upset about it.The CEO gets on and I am sure after prodding from outside, issues a statement taking away duties from resigned professionals,it seems odd to me that this wasn't done when the resignations were submitted,pure coincidence that it just so happened to be announced on the heels of Minister Kennedy's bashing of one of the doctors.Minister Kennedy should take that eighty million dollars and buy a plane with it so that anyone that needs a specialist can fly to Halifax to receive care.Kennedy is so out of touch,$30 000 household income,who can possible operate a household on that,unless you are a single retired person living on the public service pension plan or on some form of social services and this is not to besmudge these people,he should not be proud to state that amount as a average income,he should be ashamed to state such.My daughter works in a convenience store part time making minimum wage and almost does that much herself.It is alright for the Danny's and the Jerome's of this province as they have the resources to go and seek treatment elsewhere if needed.Brian investigate how many specialists have left in the past five years,how many were replaced?As for the extra money as it was called by our minister that the doctors receive from MUN,well the HSC is a teaching hospital and if your are a specialist working there you have to do work dealing the the learning of others,it is not something that one says, hey I think I'll make some extra money by teaching a few classes per week.It is part of your work.How much do Jerome make I wonder,what are his perks costing us,do he ever get any money from his firm for work done,hmmmm,I wonder.

  • ED
    November 12, 2010 - 11:05

    Mr. Kennedy says it's all right to release the salaries as the doctors are paid from the public purse. OK, how about a detailed list of all monies earned by politicians, including their salaries, tax free allowances, stipends for serving on committees, extra monies earned for being cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries, etc. Also, since politicians' pensions are not even partially funded, & thus all politicians' pensions are in reality funded from the public purse, let's have a look at those as well. Yeah sure! Mr. Kennedy compared Doctors' salaries to those people earning $ 30,000 per year, & we all know that is just to get the average person riled up. Why not compare them to the politicians' salaries, remembering that politicians do not have to attend University for 4 years, MED school for another 4 years, & then 3 more years as residents before they become specialists. That's 11 years of post secondary study, as compared to politicians who can collect a big fat pension after serving for just 6 years, regardless of their training or study. Who said life is fair?

    November 12, 2010 - 10:35

    Percy..Spoken like a true Williams cult follower. Obey follow and ask no questions and anyone who dares to ask questions is ignorant according to you. Funny thing about all that Percy is thats the same garbage Danny spews out on a daily basis, Agree with him or you a traitor, your holier than though, and you dont count. The Williams arrogance has manifested itself in Jerome Kennedy and apparently the Williams Cult has jumped on that band wagon as well. Those of us that are capable of thinking for ourselves see The Williams Dictatorship a little different than you do Percy. I bet you think the majority is NEVER wrong do you Percy? Remember what that majority consists of Percy. The last election we had the smallest voter turnout in the provinces history, Williams got the majority of those who actually voted. so realistically he got the majority of the smallest number of voters we ever had. If next election the people who chose not to vote get off tyheir collective arses and vote then and only then can we send Danny Williams and his pack of attack dogs packing.

  • Percy
    November 12, 2010 - 09:24

    I support Health Minister Kennedy. I am so sick and tired of reading/listening to comments from the so called "know it alls". When the media, be it printed or otherwise, comment on different issues, like the issue with the doctor's, I say to myself, well, I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot, how would YOU, YOU, AND YOU REACT? If you can do a better job as a Minister of the Government...go for politics... Isn't it soooooo easy to criticize. Walk a mile in the shoes of the other person, then you won't be so swift to let words flow from your mouth. All you hear from them, for the most part, is criticism, right, left and center. He who throws dirt loses ground, and, ignorance is always swift to speak. And, remember this....If thou thinkest twice before thou speakest once, thou wilt speak twice the better for it. I rest my case.

    • Willi Makit
      November 12, 2010 - 14:19

      You should have thought twice Percy,

  • Average guy
    November 12, 2010 - 09:13

    Prediction. Jerome is in a hole and still digging while Danny allows him to be thrown under the bus. Danny will ride in on the white horse and save the health care system at the last minute and, of course, take the credit at election time.

  • williebean
    November 12, 2010 - 08:53

    Fairly naive to assumbe this is about supply and demand. Isn't he offering a raise of 31%? Isn't he offering atlantic parity? Isn't the real issue here about jealously that anothre doctor makes more than the other? When doctors get in front of the microphones saying they are overworked ,and underpaid, trying to get public sympathy, I think it's absolutely important information to know they take on extra duties for extra money. It's useful information when there is this kind of public debate, where salaries are paid for by taxpayers. As a journalist, you surely can't disagree with that kind of logic.

  • Willi Makit
    November 12, 2010 - 08:32

    What is truly confusing is that this government has no issue paying their top executives a salary competitive with national norms. They have no issue with paying themselves at a rate above the national average. They have no issue paying lawyers in Montreal their going rate to fight their law suits. When it comes to paying our own doctors on par with our Atlantic peers (in so-called have not provinces), the doctors are accused of being greedy. Perhaps they could grace of with an explanation of the rationale for their double standard?

  • Anne
    November 12, 2010 - 08:05

    I guess Jerome thinks he is going to live forever and never need the services of one of these doctors. I have given up listening to the news as it is shameful how these professional people are being treated and once again the "sheep" agree with this dirty politics. What will happen in February when all these doctors leave the province, why would another doctor want to work under these conditions. Thank you Brian for this column, it was needed.

  • Pierre Neary
    November 12, 2010 - 07:52

    This was classless behaviour from the Minister. Must be learning well from his master. Start throwing mud if you run out of logical arguments. The Minister has failed miserably at yet another portfolio and yet the Premier has still left him there. Makes me question the Premier’s leadership skills. The Kennedy/Kaminski duo must be replaced for the sake of healthcare in NL.

  • Graham
    November 12, 2010 - 07:32

    I fully agree Brian. Its shamefull the way this man and this Williams dictatorship behaves.