Hypothetical austerity - Macleans.ca

Hypothetical austerity


The Globe’s Steve Chase reviews yesterday’s elimination of 245 appointments.

At least 46 of the posts the Canadian government is eliminating have never been filled. These are jobs at boards and agencies that were created by past governments but never set up, including the Space Advisory Board, established in 1989 and eligible for 19 appointments by Ottawa…

If all the jobs had been filled, Ottawa would be saving a paltry $1.2-million a year in pay and salaries as a result of these appointment cuts. By comparison, the budget deficit for the year ending March 31 will be $53.8-billion. But only 27 of the 245 jobs being cut are currently filled. A spokeswoman for Mr. Day said the estimated total savings from eliminating these 27 jobs is $53,000 to $62,000 in pay and $37,800 in travel bills.


Hypothetical austerity

  1. Apparently the Globe, after initially completely misreading the situation, has read Coyne's skewering of the media's cluelessness on this and started to wise up.

    They're slow, but given a few days and a bunch of other journalists to read, they eventually catch up.

  2. Apparently the Globe, after initially completely misreading the situation, has read Coyne's skewering of the media's cluelessness on this and started to wise up.

    They're slow, but given a few days and a bunch of other journalists to read, they eventually catch up.

    • Interesting, your first link is to John Ibbitson's "misreading the situation" , is that the naked partisanship you are concerned about?

      I'll always enjoy his Proroguing Parliament – a travesty, yet clever piece.

      "In partisan political terms, proroguing Parliament this week was inspired."

    • I don't believe Steve Chase ever misread the situation. It's really important not to visit the sins of entire organizations upon individual reporters, who in many cases, aren't at all clueless.

      • Fair point, I should not have generalized.

    • Increments, Increments. Just softening the media up so it becomes a bit boring; following the Harris template, and probably leading to a 'Walkerton' of some kind down the road. The more painless the early cuts the more reckless will be the cleaning house later without regard to or even awareness of consequences.

      • Here's hoping!

  3. Huh. So, in eliminating 27 currently-held positions, we have managed to cover the about cost of one cabinet member's bonus for being a cabinet minister (not their salary, what they get in addition to their salary for being a cabinet minister).

    We just covered Helena Guergis' position. That means it's time to celebrate, right?

  4. The game is now for the government to almost literally hang on until they are in a stronger position to win an election or they are otherwise 'forced' to call one. We're going to see a constant stream of this sort of pain-free restraint announcement together with a continuation of the EAP (sans big cheque) nonsense thru the spring and summer. Expect no meaningful cuts until after the next election and only then with a majority. The torture allegation problem will be deferred and deflected – there is absolutely no way Harper will release a single page beyond what has already been revealed.

    If the LIbs/opposition attempt to force the torture issue in Parliament (which the Libs at least are beginning to realize is a political non-starter for them) then Harper will take his chances on an election rather than have to release the docs. (Travers has this right this morning in the Star.)

    The Libs had better come up with an explosive leak or they are absolutely snookered (not election ready, close but behind in the polls, no compelling policy differentiators, uninspiring leadership) for the foreseeable future.

    • Agreed. I'd also add that Iggy will try to make political hay out of this for a few weeks, until he FINALLY realizes it's a loser topic for Libs, at which point he'll back down and be mercilessly mocked across the dominion.

  5. Why don't we take up smoking and give that up!

    • naw, couldn't handle the weight gain.

      • Taking up smoking could control that weight problem of yours.

        • Depends what kind, munchies are notoriously calorific.

    • Lisa: I'll stop buying Malibu Stacey clothing.
      Bart: And I'll take up smoking and give that up.
      Homer: Good for you, son. Giving up smoking is one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do. Have a dollar. (gives a dollar bill to Bart)
      Lisa: But he didn't do anything!
      Homer: Didn't he, Lisa? Didn't he? Wait, he didn't! (Snatches dollar back from Bart)

  6. Well, at least we've been spared the Crown cost of prosecuting Rahim Jaffer.

    Can you imagine anyone who doesn't wear a suit getting DUI and cocaine possession charges dropped to careless driving?

    • No doubt he'll be railing against our absurdly lax justice system in some future election.

    • If the prosecution is unable to secure a conviction, then yes, I can imagine it. Or are you alleging that the prosecution and the judge are both Conservatives? Would you have been happier if they'd proceeded with prosecution and he was completely aquitted? Gotta give his lawyers credit though.

      • Wasn't the Judge appointed by former Minister of Justice Jim Flaherty?

        • I don't know who he was appointed by, and it shouldn't matter, unless you're saying the judge is crooked.


  8. Clearly this was some timely housekeeping and good for Mr. Day in sorting things out. The fact that there are no real cuts (by the government that has been sitting there for 4 years implies) that they don't really have any handle on how the larger cuts down the road are to be made. It is consistent with the goal of the Conservatives to maintain an edge in public perception as the more "fiscally responsible" party perhaps without a vision but lots of common sense. It will be an interesting exercise to watch how long they can use spin to hold that reputation in the face of their actual economic record. So far one would have to give large kudos to the spindoctors.

    • We have the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio in the G7. Thats a fact, not spin.

      Most Canadians would probably like to see more severe cuts to spending, but they're also accutely aware that Iggy's running around promising new spending for every shiny object a Liberal lays his eyes on.

      • The debt to GDP ratio is a Martin -hangover, another fact. So if that is your strongest argument you should be hoping for a quick change of government to be consistent.

  9. Rather than dreaming up hypothetical measures that save relatively small amounts of $ you would think the CONservatives would embrace a strategy that would actually help Canadians AND bolster government coffers at the same time. On March 4 MP Paul Szabo introduced a petition that would net the government $6 billion/year in increased tax revenue. It supports the Marshall Savings Plan and was the subject of a Environics poll in February in which 79% of Canadians thought this was a great idea.


  10. The good thing about all this is that it will deliver the man Stock from his relative cabinet
    obscurity into the media spotlight again. Much hilarity will ensue.

  11. So yesterday it was bad to spend $3600 on a plane ride. And today it is bad to save $1,200,000 in salaries. Negativity !

    • I think the point is that less than $100 000 is being saved in salaries.
      In other words, if most of the posts were never filled, to boards that were never set up, the decision to cut them might be good housekeeping, but they're in no way "austeriy measures" — the money was never going to be spent!

      • And my point is that a good opposition whether in Parliament or in the media should be more consistent. If they feel it is good to criticize the gov`t for spending $3600 on one day, then they should praise them for not spending $1,200,000 the next day.

        And if the 1.2 million was not a sufficient saving then a good opp. ( in media and Parliament ) should outline how it would reduce spending even more.

        • What $1.2M?

          • Thanks for saving us the fantasy mil + Stock. By the way, what are you going to do with the 100 grand in real savings[ your figures] ? Send a boy to do a man's job.

          • Salary * Number of Jobs, would be my guess. 1.2M actually seems like a conservative estimate (no pun intended) in total.

            I'm of the opinion that it's nice that we're saving this money, but it would come across as more genuine if it weren't publicized as austere (or more generally, all that impactful). Likewise, budget spending that "tightens the reins" on waste would come across as more genuine if the finance minister weren't taking round-trip one-day flights that would have funded an entire two-week vacation (or more!) for me and my family.

          • Except, as noted above, the reality is that there are only 27 jobs cut at a savings of about $100,000. This is nothing but an attempt at headline grabbing so it appears that Harper is doing something fiscally conservative.

            Other than breaking his promise not to tax income trusts (a promise that should never have been given), I can't think of a single tough decision that Harper has made and certainly not any that were based on principle. When he had a surplus, he increased spending to record levels. When he had a deficit, he increased spending.

            A typical borrow and tax and spend conservative.

          • It doesn't make sense to me that a single government job would pay only 1/27th of 53K (or roughly $2000 in total). So I'm running on the premise that each position paid between $53 and $62K per annum. That's where my >$1M number comes from.

            I'm not going to belabour the Conservatives' spending habits (and lord knows I don't try to defend them), we're now in this hole and like it or not, we all have to find our way out of it, since, it would appear, our government is still hell-bent on spending our way out of debt.

            Strangely enough, this (http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/03/09/ns-ma… made the CBC this morning. Well, good for him, it's a start.

          • "the estimated total savings from eliminating these 27 jobs is $53,000 to $62,000 in pay and $37,800 in travel bills."

            I think you are assuming that all of those are full-time, full-benefit jobs. I don't believe they are.

          • A fair argument, but I'd like to see the descriptions of those postings (or non-postings) before I concede the point.

          • I'm not trying to make an argument. I'm quoting Stockwell Day's spokesperson who is saying the "total savings" will be about $100,000.

            As for looking down the list of positions and the emptiness of the "cuts", Blogging Tory Phantom Observer has done some yeoman's work (or cutting and pasting) listing them all or most of them.

          • Thanks for the link.

          • These aren't "government jobs" though, they're just appointments to boards and agencies and such. I don't know how much one would get paid to sit on the "Space Advisory Board", but as presumably most of the people on such a board would be reasonably well-paid astronauts, physicists, engineers etc… I wouldn't imagine that a position on the board would be a terribly lucrative one. A $2,000-5,000 honorarium seems reasonable to me, and the $100,000 we're actually saving divided by the 27 appointments actually being eliminated does come out to about $3,700 per appointment. It also wouldn't surprise me if some of these appointments didn't include any compensation at all.

          • Exactly.

            But the headlines are worth their weight in gold votes.

            At least the initial headlines. There seems already to be some real digging behind the headline on Day 2.

            What is interesting to me as a news as well as political observer, is that since prorogation and Harper's daily changing of the reason for prorogation, there is a sense of not just accepting Harper statements and press releases as unchallengeable facts. You saw it with their claims prorogation was routine (it wasn't). You saw it with their claims that it was the senate that was holding up Harper's crime bills (it wasn't). You see it now with these "cuts" (that aren't).


          • The 1.2 million figure was reported in the Taber article yesterday in the Globe, but I`m confused; Chase`s article says that 27 jobs were cut so there should have been considerable more saving then 1.2 million.

            I do hope before the Budget debate is over we do see some useful suggestions from those Liberal finance critics to encourage the gov`t to fight the deficit, rather then petty politicking.

          • "the estimated total savings from eliminating these 27 jobs is $53,000 to $62,000 in pay and $37,800 in travel bills."

            I think you are assuming that all of those are full-time, full-benefit jobs. I don't believe they are.

        • You know, it's possible to simultaneously believe that wasting $3600 for a Minister to make it to an event in time to throw in a photo op is bad, AND that trumpeting the "cutting" of a whopping 245 appointments as an austerity measure (when in reality it will only save the government just less than $100,000 all told) is ALSO BAD.

          The point is not that saving $100,000 isn't good. Sure, they saved $100,000. Fine. You never would have known, however, that they were only saving $100,000 when they announced the list of 245 appointments they were "eliminating".

          Also, stop expecting praise for the $1.2 million the government would hypothetically have saved if 90% of the positions being cut weren't already vacant. By that logic, the government could expect praise for "canceling" a $3 trillion defense contract that they never even signed. Eliminating the spending of money that's not actually being spent just isn't that impressive.

    • Seems everybody is in agreement that this is good policy, bad PR. Unless there's anybody out there who actually thinks we should continue to budget for positions that aren't filled?