McGuinty Liberals said they’d hold the line on public sector wages. When?
by Christina Blizzards
Dalton McGuinty’s track record of picking winners and losers when it comes to backing business is fairly consistent.
He almost always manages to put our money on a loser.
He’s been slammed in the past for giving corporate welfare to companies such as a St. Catharines software developer that took millions of dollars in provincial and federal funding — and then laid off staff.
McGuinty woke up from his midwinter nap long enough to hand out some more corporate largesse last week.
On Thursday, he visited the swanky Bay St. offices of communications giant Cisco Systems — hardly a struggling start-up.
I couldn’t help wonder why 25 million taxpayer dollars are going to a company that can afford such a high-rent district.
Far be it for me, a mere mortal, to question why governments hand out cash to some businesses and not others.
I, like you, just pay the bills.
In the same vein, as a mere mortal, I cannot be privy to the clever thoughts of deep thinkers who make all those rational arguments about why we can’t freeze public sector salaries.
I get that you can’t just break collective agreements — although former NDP premier Bob Rae tried to do just that with his “Rae Days.”
The real question is why did the government ever sign these fatcat deals in the first place?
The answer, of course, is that it’s not their money they’re spending. It’s ours.
They really don’t care about the pain you and I feel when we get a tax hike.
And most of these deals were inked after the economy tanked in 2008.
The writing was on the wall.
I remember asking Finance Minister Dwight Duncan back then if he was going to freeze wages — and got the usual bafflgab.
I, as a mere mortal, could never understand the higher math of political expediency.
After all, any private sector company in a downturn seeks to cut costs.
And no one was demanding mass public sector layoffs, despite what was happening in the private sector.
So why was it so impossible to ask the unions to simply hold the line?
Again, as a mere mortal, I have no answer.
Only the geniuses in government know why they caved to every union demand.
Those civil servant salaries come with pay and perks the rest of us can only dream of. Not only that, they have hefty, defined benefit pensions.
A recent study found at least one-third of Canadians are worried they don’t have enough money for their retirement.
What that likely means is one-third of Canadians will work well past the usual 65 retirement age, just to pay the bills.
Civil servants, meanwhile, usually retire early — often before they’re 60.
So while all those hospital CEOs, power company execs and former eHealth bureaucrats swan around the world on vacation, I’ll be flipping burgers and shovelling fries at McDonald’s to make ends meet.
That’s what mere mortals do.
PC leader Tim Hudak has been asking similar questions.
He said the way McGuinty froze non-union pay and caved to the big public sector unions is causing “the biggest union drive since the Great Depression,” with more than 90 workers at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre recently voting to unionize.
In an earlier news conference, Hudak questioned the government mantra you can’t freeze public sector pay, pointing out that it’s been done in B.C., New Brunswick and Manitoba.
Even U.S. President Barack Obama recently imposed a two-year freeze and the highly-unionized U.K. introduced a pay freeze in 2010.
So, perhaps it’s possible to freeze public sector pay after all.
Duncan promised in 2010 he’d do just that. And it’s not as if a Liberal would ever lie to mere mortals like us, is it?
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