Tag Archives: Income Inequality

I’m Infamous Today (And it Feels Good)

Inequality InfographicWhen I started this blog in January, I promised myself that I would make a serious effort to try and get my opinions published in a major Canadian newspaper at least once this year. It would be an important benchmark for my writing skills if I could actually achieve this goal. It’s not easy to get published in a major newspaper. They receive a lot of content, and have very tough editorial standards. So far, my opinions have appeared in The Globe & Mail four times this year, thanks to being selected as a participant on the 2013 BC Election panel. It certainly boosted my self-confidence when I saw my words appear in print. Like many writers, I sometimes wondered if anyone was really interested in what I had to say.

On Saturday, September 14th, Vancouver Sun columnist Stephen Hume wrote a major one page feature entitled ‘Income Inequality Threatens Society‘. He interviewed Professor Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, and former US secretary of Labour during the Clinton adminstration. Dr. Reich will be speaking at a Public Square event sponsored by Simon Fraser University on October 3 at the Orpheum Theatre here in Vancouver. As I read the column, I identified very much with what Dr. Reich was saying. I decided to write a letter to the editor and express my thoughts about Stephen Hume’s column. It’s always a bit of a crap shoot when you write a letter to the editor; you have absolutely no way of knowing if they’ll decide to publish it. I crafted my words carefully, hoping that perhaps I’d get their attention. On Sunday evening, September 15th, I crossed my fingers and sent the letter by e-mail.

This morning I picked up the Friday edition of the Vancouver Sun on the way to my favourite coffee shop. When I sat down and opened the editorial pages, I was in for a very pleasant surprise:

Widening economic disparity sows social discontent

Re: Income inequality threatens our society, Column, Sept. 14

Stephen Hume’s column on income inequality rings true when it comes to my own life’s circumstances.

I’m the stereotypical white 53-yearold male with a master’s degree in education.

In my working life I never even came close to earning the $91,000 a year that is average for my demographic according to a Statistics Canada report. I can only dream of how awesome it would be to have a salary like that.

My median income for the last five years is way below Statscan’s reported overall white male Canadian average of $49,351.

I went bankrupt in 2009 because I couldn’t find regular employment in the province. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. I applied for more than 230 positions. When you think about it, that’s an insane number of jobs to apply for.

For all my education and experience, I ended up selling retail consumer electronics in a shopping mall at an appallingly low wage that barely kept me going.

Four years later, I’m unemployed again and struggling to survive in this province where I was born.

I feel very resentful toward those who appear to have it all while I have gone without.

Anthony Gurr

Vancouver

Seeing my letter in the editorial section of today’s newspaper was another important validation of my writing skills. People really are interested in what I have to say.

The Grumpy Ferret (Extra! Extra! Read all about it!)

BC Provincial MLA’s Are Not Worth What They’re Paid

“I trust politicians to do what’s right. For themselves.
”
Jarod Kintz, The Days of Yay are Here! Wake Me Up When They’re Over.

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

“One of the penalties of refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
Plato

trudeauAs a young man, I used to hold politicians in high esteem. I thought that these people were altruistic, intelligent, noble, and had the interest of their constituents at heart. I was kind of a political animal – I belonged to the federal Progressive Conservative party in the 1980’s during the time of Pierre Trudeau, Joe Clark, and Ed Broadbent. Canadian politics seemed exciting and really interesting. I dreamed of being a member of parliament. I actually debated on the floor of the BC Legislature, the Senate Chamber in Ottawa, and I even managed to sneak into the House of Commons and sit in Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s seat (I have the photo to prove it!). I met prominent Canadian politicians like Allan McKinnon, Don Munro, Eugene Forsey, Flora Macdonald, Joe Clark, and I once bumped into the legendary Stanley Knowles. Heck, I even arranged for former BC Premier Bill Bennett to go jogging with my high school running club! As I’ve written before, going to the 1983 Conservative convention in Ottawa exposed me to how national Canadian politics really runs – it’s about perks, power, and prestige. As the years passed, I grew increasingly disillusioned with all the patronage, the partisan rancour, and the visible lack of intelligence demonstrated by MP’s in the House of Commons.

On my 34th birthday in 1994, I realized that I was actually smarter and had more practical life experience than quite a few of those sad sacks who sat in the House of Commons. But by this stage of my life, I was a professional videogame designer working in the United States – a profession that I thought much was more challenging and exciting than politics. I was far more interested in working with cutting-edge technology and creating virtual worlds.

I’m proud to call British Columbia my home. I was born and raised here. I think it’s one of the most unique places in the world that needs to be carefully nurtured and preserved for future generations.  Unfortunately, I think that the people we elect as members of the provincial legislature are a mediocre lot who are not up to the task of effectively governing this province with an eye to future generations. This past weekend, columnist Pete McMartin of The Vancouver Sun wrote an authoritative column about what our MLA’s are paid to be the people’s representatives. The column is called “The Cost – and Worth – of our Politicians“. Our MLA’s are the third-highest paid in Canada. They receive an annual salary of $101,859.00, plus expense allowances and pensions. They don’t make as much as Alberta MLA’s who earn $134,000, or Ontario MLA’s who receive $116,000.

Christy-Clark-ParachuteWhen I read what BC MLA’s are paid, I truly felt like vomiting. There is no rhyme or reason as to why BC MLA’s deserve this level of compensation. Having worked in the private sector for almost 25 years, I can’t fathom how they’re allowed to get away with being paid so much. The poor quality of debate, their lack of knowledge, and partisan belligerence does not justify all the perks and privileges. They certainly don’t sit in the legislature long enough to justify this salary. They don’t communicate  or publish individual columns or articles frequently enough. They are not as visible to the public as they should be. The litany of poor judgement and scandals shows they’re not worth what we pay them. We currently have no public accounting of their expenses – which comes from us, the citizenry of BC.

Put it this way, Washington State is our next door neighbour to the south. Their population is 6.5 million to BC’s 4.5 million. Their state legislators receive – $42,106, plus a $90 per diem. In the state of New Mexico, their legislators get NO SALARY for sitting in the legislature. They receive a per diem of $154.

And don’t get me started about their political hacks and spin doctors in Victoria who are paid huge amounts of money as simpering party sycophants.

I know a former BC Liberal cabinet minister who served in the legislature for 17 years. He’ll receive a six-figure retirement pension under the BC political pension system. Meanwhile, I’m resigned to the fact that I will continue working for every penny I can earn until the I drop dead. No comfortable retirement for me. I’m on my own, like so many other people.

Because the BC Liberal government is so big about free enterprise and promoting a pro-business agenda, I think every MLA on the government and opposition sides of the BC Legislature should have to undergo an annual performance review under the auspices of the Speaker’s Office. MLA’s should only receive pay increases based on merit, just like in the private sector. Provincial governments should be evaluated by the citizens of this province using the Net Promoter System of customer evaluation used by Fortune 100 companies like Apple and Best Buy in North America, so they can get a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly tracking of how people rate the performance levels of provincial MLA’s and government services. This information should be made public as well. If they’re such big boosters of business development, they should use the same rating systems to evaluate their effectiveness at serving the citizens of this province.

Take that fad wad of cash in your mouth, BC politicians, and use the same methods of evaluation as the private sector to justify your pay for performance. After all, you’re such believers in free enterprise.

The Grumpy Ferret (who rated top Net Promoter Scores for customer service)