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EDITORIAL: Job vs. reward

Premier Dwight Ball met with the media at the Confederation Building Friday afternoon to discuss the controversies regarding Carla Foote and Gordon McIntosh. The premier also gave an update on his government’s rate-mitigation plan — see story on A4. Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Premier Dwight Ball met with the media at Confederation Building last Friday to discuss, among other things, the hiring controversy regarding Carla Foote. — Telegram file photo

It was a kind of “let them eat cake” moment.

Explaining why Carla Foote had been moved from her contentious position at The Rooms — one for which she faced no competition, and where the salary was boosted substantially when she was appointed, Premier Dwight Ball delivered a clunker of a line.

Saying Foote wasn’t to blame for the controversy, Ball explained her new appointment as an assistant deputy minister in the province’s public engagement division like this: “She deserves to have a job and rightfully so.”

The premier is aware of what province he’s in, isn’t he?

Plenty of people in this province who deserve jobs don’t have them, and they’re not being appointed as assistant deputy ministers. The province’s unemployment rate ticked up to 11.9 per cent in January, with more than 30,000 people out there looking for work.

Not only are there not enough jobs, most of the jobs there are don’t pay anything near Foote’s new salary of $122,000 — $10,000 less than her position at The Rooms, but a healthy wage just the same.

In fact, as information from the provincial government points out, 35 per cent of people in the province who file income tax returns — 155,000 people — make so little money that they pay nothing in income tax.

The difference here is that this is not Dwight Ball’s company. It’s the provincial government.

By comparison, Foote’s $122,000 annual salary puts her somewhere in the top seven per cent of wage earners in the province.

You can understand Premier Ball’s position to a degree; he’s worked with Foote for a number of years, no doubt closely when she was the associate secretary to cabinet. When you work with someone for years, you might well feel you owe them some loyalty.

As a businessman, if Ball had employed Foote for years and felt she was a valued employee with a skill set he recognized, he’d be completely within his rights if he decided to hire her if she needed work.

The difference here is that this is not Dwight Ball’s company. It’s the provincial government.

Turn the argument completely on its head for a moment: Carla Foote was handed a job in the public engagement division that became vacant on Dec. 18 — a position which, according to the province’s records, has just eight staff apart from the assistant deputy minister.

There was no competition for that position either, and because of that, the government has no idea if there was a better candidate available.

Were there people who might have been interested in the position with a track record in public engagement who also might have deserved to have a job? We’ll never know.

One thing we do know is that, in this instance, there’s abundant proof that the government — and the premier — didn’t care about finding the best person for the job.

Because, clearly, it’s not what you know.

It’s who you know.

And the Ball government can’t argue otherwise.

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