“Please be advised that the Members’ Compensation Review Committee has extended the time for acceptance of written submissions to Oct. 15. The Members’ Compensation Review Committee was appointed to inquire into and prepare a report respecting the salaries, allowances, severance payments and pensions to be paid to members of the House of Assembly.” — Sept. 25 news release.
We’ll take that challenge: here’s a written submission that may make sense, but is unlikely to ever see the light of day when it comes to actually affecting MHA salaries. Why? Because, in the end, reviews of MHAs and their pay deal with incremental change, rather than radical departures from the norm.And what’s the radical departure? Simple. It’s about time our politicians lived in the same working world as anyone else. For example, successive federal and provincial governments have watched the decline and near-demise of the defined benefit pension — in fact, in the private sector, the decline of all pension plans.It must be hard for a legislator to understand the impact of that sort of change when they are all the while completely insulated from anything like it. Not only is it about time that the province’s MHAs take charge of paying their own fair share of their pensions (the MHA pension fund is in a black hole, sucking in far more money from taxpayers than it does from MHAs), but individual MHAs should feel the same pain as their constituents. If a majority of constituents no longer have a defined benefit pension with inflation protection built in, well, their legislators shouldn’t either. They can choose the amounts they want to put in their defined plan, and like some employers, the province could match it dollar for dollar.But not only that. For years, pay and benefits for legislators have increased based on “like” positions: when the pay rates increase for Alberta or B.C. provincial legislators, for example, other provinces use those increases to justify their own pay increases. But while having such a small “me-too” almost guarantees every increase floats pay rates higher right across the country, it doesn’t reflect the reality of individual provinces.There are things that could be done.For example, take a representative group of professions across the province and match their respective salary rates across the country. If a sample of the pay rates of nurses, architects, security guards, public servants and teachers were to show that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in those positions made an average of 72 per cent of what the same positions paid across the country, then Newfoundland’s legislators should receive no more than 72 per cent of the average pay of Canadian provincial politicians.Better still, untie our province’s MHA pay from other provinces completely. Pay them some proportion or multiplier of the province’s average industrial wage. As conditions improve for average citizens, pay could increase for MHAs as well.And while we’re on the topic of the real world, why do we pay severance to provincial politicians when they decide to quit? In the ordinary working world, you might get severance if you are, well, severed, as in laid off or fired without cause. Politicians should get the same deal. If they are defeated in an election, they should receive a week’s pay for every year of service. If they quit or choose not to run again, well, they could get the same department store cake as everyone else who leaves a job. The real world: what a concept. P.S.: don’t expect any of this to happen.