How much is that cabinet in the window? (IV) - Macleans.ca

How much is that cabinet in the window? (IV)

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The Prime Minister’s Office just announced the appointments of 27 parliamentary secretaries, each entitled to a bonus of $15,600, amounting to a total of $421,200 in extra salary.

Let’s be fair, in general, politicians at the national level deserve to be well-rewarded. At least in theory. And this extra money for cabinet ministers and ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries amounts to a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the federal budget.

Could some of the money be better spent? Perhaps. Would it be generally more useful if directed to, say, affordable housing or poverty or medical research? Sure.

But set that aside. Let’s put this in the language of this place. What political benefit would Stephen Harper’s government gain from showing restraint in regards to its own compensation?

Among the six suggestions put forward by Slate’s John Dickerson as to how Barack Obama could show he was a “different” politician was this: 

“Work without pay. Obama has talked about a new era of sacrifice and has also promised to go through the budget ‘line by line,’ cutting out unnecessary programs. If he were to work without pay, he would show that he was doing his part. He can afford it: Obama’s books have made him a wealthy man. And his next books will make him even wealthier.”

Granted, Stephen Harper might not be as privately well-off as Barack Obama. He is, after all, just a middle-class guy, driving a minivan, taking his kids to hockey practice and worrying about the cable bill and how he’s going to pay for Ben and Rachel to go to university. And, no doubt, all of his ministers are of similarly humble roots.

But they’re all currently earning a base salary of $155,400. And so surely some of them could get by without the extra $74,400 owed to cabinet ministers. 

So let’s say the government’s looking at a deficit. And let’s say the Prime Minister promised during his re-election campaign to never go into debt. How much would that apparent misleading of the Canadian public be mitigated if he announced that he and his senior ministers would be accepting only their basic MP salaries and that he has asked anyone in his caucus who is able to do likewise?

A token gesture? Sure. But then Mr. Harper was once of those who made great token noises about MP pensions. Perhaps he could even call this Operation Pork Chop II.