Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski must be thanking her lucky stars that, among the areas an Eastern Health review looked at, there was a Tim Hortons run by the corporation that was losing money — and, to quote the administration, was paying some of its staff salary and benefits that total $28 an hour.
A CBC Radio host described it as “the only Tim Hortons that can’t turn a profit.” The salaries — Eastern Health had an agreement that the franchise would pay its workers the same amount as existing Eastern Health food service workers — are now the topic of tons of social media discussions, not to mention being the butt of new jokes. It’s almost surprising how much an ancillary issue has taken over the mainstream discussion of the cost-cutting plan.
The Tim Hortons is losing $250,000 a year, while the other cuts are meant to save
$43 million — meaning handing the Tim’s over to private operation represents 0.58 of a per cent of the overall cuts, a mere Timbit of savings in the grand scheme of Eastern Health.
But it’s not just doughnuts: by noon on Wednesday, after only 18 hours or so online, some 10,500 people had read a post by Telegram blogger Geoff Meeker about the rude response a fan of the band Hedley had received from the band’s lead singer after a performance in St. John’s.
The blog entry also received scores of comments, many of them unusable, about the nature of performers generally and the disproportionate size of their egos.
Once again, it’s a relatively small issue, but one that seems to have captured a great deal of public attention.
Now, H.L. Mencken wrote: “No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.”
Where people have probably had a harder time making money is by properly answering the question of just what will garner the interest of the largest number of people.
Politicians sometimes try to play to that. It’s hard to forget past federal Conservative politicians who have hunted through the lists of Canada Council grants, hunting for the most outrageous project they can find, all the better to complain about funding the arts in general.
Others sometimes dig deep to find just the right embarrassing poster-child to hopefully blunt the public impact of major announcements about cutbacks.
Before 2 p.m. Tuesday, Vickie Kaminski must have been concerned about her upcoming announcement, that there would be critical public pushback against removing so many full-time positions — more than 550 in all, albeit with no layoffs and a promise that no services would be affected.
Instead, she’s probably mystified that the most public concern has been about double-double salaries.
But there it is: on first blush, the public interest is about people being paid the equivalent of $28 an hour to serve coffee.
Let’s see if that view of the cutbacks lasts.