Once in a while, while surfing the dial, I stop on CPAC to watch our federal Members of Parliament in action. If a debates going on, I stick around to watch MPs hurl accusations and bon mots at one another while the speaker of the house brandishes his huge mace to restore order. After one speech is finished the mob either cheers or blows raspberries depending on whether they are a Liberal or a member of the opposition, and whether they were paying attention.
I never got the sense that any of these people were working.
A few of the cabinet members and their shadows shuffle papers while the majority of the members, way back in the cheap seats, prop up an elbow, rest their chins in their hands, and try to stay awake. There are always empty seats on both sides of the fence, usually when its sunny or approaching a long weekend.
This same group is on the verge of voting itself a 21 per cent pay raise, based on the findings of a supposedly independent commission led by a former Liberal MP.
It will eliminate an already controversial $22,800 tax-free allowance, but the base pay will increase from the equivalent of $109,000 per year to $131,400 that puts our MPs in the top two per cent of wage earners in the country, i.e. among the wealthy. Prime Minister Jean Chretiens salary will increase by a staggering 42 per cent, from $184,600 to $262,988.
The independent commission compared MP salaries to salaries in the private sector, and determined that our elected officials deserve more to compensate for long hours and travel. MPs backed the study, claiming that it will make it easier for political parties to attract qualified candidates apparently the "low salary" is more off-putting to the intelligentsia than the mind-numbing bureaucracy of our political system.
I object. Not because Im jealous, which I am, but because this pay raise will ultimately do more to ruin politics than improve on them who do you trust, the person who entered politics out of principle and a sense of civic duty, or the schill who enters politics for money? Canada is a country, not a business.
And while they may work the same long hours as people in the private sector, they dont have the same pressures. They cant get fired or laid off, and they can give themselves a raise any time they want. They arent forced to compete with one another, or sit for humiliating quarterly performance reviews. They vote along party lines like mindless drones, which suggest that any MP can be replaced by a Collie who can show up and 9 a.m. and bark once for yes and twice for no. They dont even have to get results Endangered Species legislation, which 90 per cent of Canadians are in favour of, has died on the table at the announcement of the past two elections.