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Editorial: All that gravy is keeping our MLAs toasty warm

The extra pay B.C.’s MLAs receive when they take on additional titles.
The B.C. legislative chamber during the reading of the throne speech on Feb. 6, 2023. CHAD HIPOLITO, THE CANADIAN PRESS

In these cold, wintry days, it must warm the cockles of our MLAs’ hearts to know how well they’re doing.

Most of the NDP’s caucus members have been given elevated salaries, supposedly commensurate with the extra work they’ve taken on.

Admittedly much of that extra “work” is a work of fiction. But no one could accuse Premier David Eby of scrimping when it comes to handing out the cash.

Eby takes home an annual salary of close to $220,000. That’s not unreasonable given the burdens of the job.

But after that, it’s gravy road. While recent shuffles make it difficult to be certain, it appears Eby has promoted 24 of his caucus members to cabinet rank, another four of his MLAs are ministers of state, and a further 17 have been appointed parliamentary secretaries or chairs of special committees.

None of these come cheap. While an MLA’s base salary is $115,000, a cabinet minister takes home $172,000, a minister of state gets $155,000, while parliamentary secretaries and committee chairs pocket $132,000.

But there’s more. The Speaker of the House gets $172,000, while the deputy speaker makes $155,000.

Then we have the government whip, who takes home $138,000, the deputy government whip who has $132,000, plus the government caucus chair and the deputy caucus chair, both of whom make $138,000.

Over all, more than $2 million in perks have been distributed to NDP caucus members, on top of their base salary bill of $6.5 million.

In effect, something like 52 of the party’s 56-member caucus have been handed promotions. Makes you wonder what the leftovers did wrong.

We can take this ridiculous over-staffing further. Do we really need a parliamentary secretary for value-added manufacturing, all the more so since this “job” adds no value?

What does the parliamentary secretary for international credentials do that’s worth $132,000 a year? And why on earth do we need a parliamentary secretary for rural health? We already pay not one but two ministers $172,000 a year to take care of health issues (Adrian Dix and Jennifer Whiteside).

Things aren’t quite as munificent on the other side of the aisle. BC United leader Kevin Falcon takes home $172,000, while it appears an additional four of his 26 caucus members make between $132,000 and $138,000.

Given what’s happening on the government benches, that seems a little pikey. While Falcon’s remaining 21 caucus members are designated “shadow ministers,” apparently that doesn’t merit an increase beyond the basic $115,000 that all MLAs earn.

Carrying matters beyond the ridiculous, cash is ladled on the Conservative Party, home to just two MLAs. Party leader John Rustad gets $144,000 while his only caucus member, Bruce Banman, takes home $127,000. Neither of these gentlemen has won an election as a Conservative candidate; both were former Liberal party members.

These salaries are over and above generous allowances which include accommodation costs and travel costs,

In the first six months of 2023, our 87 MLAs racked up an additional $2.2 million in taxpayer-funded expenses.

Then we have what is euphemistically termed a “Members’ Transitional Assistance.” These latter are “severance payments” made to MLAs who’ve served a full four-year term then were defeated. They can amount to 15 months’ salary, or $144,000.

The overall picture that emerges is wild overuse of make-believe promotions and duplication of offices for no other reason than virtue signalling and keeping disgruntled caucus members onside.

No one would grudge MLAs from distant ridings support in finding rental accommodation or travel expenses. And the basic salary, while hefty, is warranted.

But the picture of indulgence that emerges here can only damage an essential institution.

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