Today I was happy to read that Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario NDP called for a ban on ‘executive bonus pay’.
While it doesn’t fix all of the issues with mismanagement and bad prioritization of funds in the public sector, it would move a few bucks back into the coffers for things that are important to citizens. I never quite understood the logic behind giving massive bonuses and perks to public CEOs. Sure, one can make arguments about motivating individuals to do good work and boost their organization’s performance through powerful decision making. Will giving them cars, condos, expanded personal budgets and giant salaries and the like somehow enable them through motivation to come up with ideas that are so incredibly genius that they will implement something with no impact to services provided while saving the organization at least the same amount of money it would save if we simply removed the bonuses they normally receive themselves? I don’t think any of us are so naive.
Bad budget prioritization is one of the biggest problems we have with government both as a province and as a country. It seems that every time something newsworthy happens concerning our economy or government, people come out of the woodwork to talk about our public healthcare system or public education… some speaking of the economic burden it is to continue on the way we’re carrying on and the importance of budget cuts and austerity, while others speak of how very wrong this is. While large scale cutbacks and across-the-board austerity measures are a very flawed, broken approach that might look nice on paper (I’ll address this another time), the fact is that we do not even have to be having these types of arguments yet.
I ask you this: Why would political parties, organizations or even every day citizens waste breath and time arguing about all the things we should and shouldn’t cut back on while there are things so blatantly (and agreeably) incorrect about the way public budgeting is prioritized that can be fixed today? I have a hard time seeing how anyone, other than those who stand to gain from it, would think there is any positive benefit to dedicating a portion of a health care budget to paying off CEOs with exorbitant salaries and bolstering their private life with luxury cars and golf club memberships and the like.
Why is it ok to dedicate a fraction of a “health care” budget to things that do not have any impact on health care whatsoever? It seems foolish to have debates about other things in the budgets when things like this stick out like a sore thumb.
Let’s put aside all of the debate and ideology for two minutes and get rid some things that are obviously easy to agree on and easy to fix.
Below is a letter I wrote to my local newspaper, (The Sarnia Observer) near the start of this year. While there are many ways of addressing the issues, I chose to juxtapose the ridiculousness of some very real circumstances I experienced first hand over the almost comical misuse of millions of dollars in Ontario healthcare:
A rocky economy and two elections in 2011 and now some additional revelations about health CEO perks and salaries show us that the conversation about public heealthcare isn’t going to cease anytime soon. But what are we NOT talking about?
About a year ago, I had an exciting opportunity to spend time in our hospitals as an observer. All the nurses and staff work harder than I had ever imagined, but what was most surprising to me was how ill-equipped they actually were. Even more surprising was my first adventure in prison economics and trading.
A couple RNs were trying to perform a procedure and required a 9-volt battery, of all things. They hadn’t any extras and were told it would take weeks to get more. There were none in the ward or available on the floor. A patient laid waiting for a good 30 minutes while we went on an adventure to another floor where we met with surgeons. I stood aside as the RN negotiated an off-the-books loan, promising to replace the battery weeks later and a return favor should the surgeon lend her a battery. After a short exchange, we finally got our battery upon the condition it was indeed replaced when possible. At this point, I was surprised a “pack of smokes” wasn’t part of the deal.
We’re reading articles about public health CEOs getting perks like plastic surgery, cars, golf trips, and huge salaries and our hospitals keep waiting rooms full while medical professionals hunt for 5 dollar batteries!?
During the provincial elections debates, the topic of “chronic pain treatment” came up. Apparently we have a problem in the area with long waiting lists and persons not getting needed treatment. The candidates were asked what they’d do about it. One of them, Brian White, had already found a very simple solution to the problem. He had previously talked to the local doctor who deals with this treatment to ask what needed to be done and the answer was simple - if the doctor was paid to work another day each week, waiting lists could have been chopped down significantly.
It seems pretty clear that lives here in Sarnia-Lambton could be significantly improved by moving money from the CEO perk and salary budget in Ontario into covering these sort of costs. Is the public hospital system designed to bring health to residents or wealth to a few?
One thing this ongoing conversation does provide is an opportunity to bring unity amongst us.
Regardless of our political differences, why don’t we stand together and demand that so long as money is being spent on our healthcare, that it is spent on actual healthcare, not inflated salaries for overseers and extra perks. I have no problem with people doing well for themselves, but when it comes to taxpayer money, prioritization is needed. If you want to pave the road to an eventual million dollar a year salary, go work in the private sector.
Letter to the editor - “Of Hospitals and Prison Culture” - via The Sarnia Observer - http://ow.ly/d69vn
"Ontario hospital CEO contracts show car, golf perks" - via CBC News - http://ow.ly/d69DR
I sent the following letter off to local papers late this past afternoon. The 500 word limits for letters to the local paper have me focusing on things other than excellent prose and citation but I think it gets my point across. Have a look. What do you think of our government’s budget prioritization?
Spare the CBC: I Can Fix Our 2012 Budget in 30 Seconds
The CBC has been an important pillar of Canadian culture and every step of my life. Whether it be watching Mr. Dressup as a youngster, discovering new music on the radio or watching the news, there has always been something of unrivaled quality to be enjoyed. It has put Canadian musical talent on the world map and has done incredible things for Canada. The CBC also has some of the best and least biased National news programming available.
As part of a $5.2 Billion dollar cut to Federal spending introduced in the 2012 Federal budget, it has been proposed that CBC’s funding be cut by some $115 Million dollars (from its $1.1 Billion dollar budget). There are many other contentious areas where cuts are being made as well, including 19,200 jobs (potentially tens of thousands more in the private sector through ripple effects of the cuts), and increases to minimum age for OAS benefits.
During times when crimerates have been falling and hitting record lows since the 60s and 70s, this same government has committed to a controversial crime bill that has been highly criticized by experts as being ineffectual, harmful and wasteful. The C-10 “omnibus crime bill” or “Safe Streets and Communities Act” as they’ve decided to call it has even been criticized by the Canadian Bar Association and shockingly, US Conservatives in Texas where they have tried very similar strategies and learned that it was the wrong approach and a complete failure.
In the face of all this, they still proceeded and this bill will cost the Federal and Provincial governments BILLIONS of dollars. This is only one of several wasteful bills to be passed with the Harper government’s majority ruling. They are billing themselves as being committed to fiscal responsibility and having to make tough but “minor” budgetary adjustments while hacking and slashing their way through things that matter to Canadians and shaking the public purse over a sewer grate.
It is clear to me that a government that can afford multibillion-dollar legislation time after time despite contradictory science and expert opinion can afford to NOT make cuts to the CBC or other things important to Canadians.
We can’t look at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation as merely “another broadcaster”, or as mere “money in vs money out”. The economic benefits can’t be measured in those terms and would require using pseudoscience and guess work to make estimates as to the impact it’s had on the success of Canadians during the past 75 years. A $100 million dollar cut to the CBC would threaten key services and is equivalent to almost the entire cost of producing CBC radio.
It would be naive of me to expect that nothing was ever cut, but the word of the day is PRIORITY. If you want to make cuts to the CBC, commit to end the senseless waste elsewhere first and put bills like C-10 in the paper shredder first.
-Adam W. Young
Adam Types Too Much feature: TED Tuesdays
A Bad Year For Bad Guys
Srđa Popović discusses social change and dictators.