EDITORIAL: Embracing the power and the pay

BC Premier Christy Clark's generous stipend – in addition to her annual salary – needs to come to an end.

Elected officials usually establish early in their professional political careers whether they have open-door or closed-door policies.

You may know the open-door politicians, though they can oftentimes be a bit more difficult to find. They’re the politicians who mount campaigns of inclusion and openness, and who then show up at public gatherings, take part in the back-and-forth of discussion regardless of whether there’s personal gain or even an influential audience, then stick around a little longer to listen to any issues that are brought to their attention.

You likely know the ones with the closed doors. They also mount campaigns of inclusion and openness, but that’s where the similarity ends. There is little back-and-forth. After these politicians make pronouncements uninterrupted, they disappear – with a ‘click’ – behind the scenes, presumably to have private discussions with insiders about the issues that will affect the rest of us.

Clearly, the open-door politician embraces the power of the ‘public service’ aspect of the job a little more willingly. The closed-door politician embraces the power.

But there’s a third type of politician that’s become the norm – an amalgam of the original two. These are the elected officials who consider themselves open-door but who are quite selective for whom their doors will open. And if you’re willing to pay an entrance fee – say, in the $1,000-$5,000-$10,000-and-up range at partisan fundraisers – you, too, can be an ‘insider’ with real face-time.

In case this sounds too cynical, we’ll double-down and describe a recent variation of this last type of politician – the one who, in addition to a generous public wage, collects a generous stipend from party coffers.

In the case of our current premier, that’s amounted to an annual addition of $45,000-$50,000 – collected by the BC Liberal party – to Christy Clark’s $195,000 provincial salary in recent years.

To be fair to our premier, the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner announced this week that Clark was not in a conflict of interest for hosting the exclusive party fundraisers or receiving her annual stipend.

But to be fair to voters, simply because a politician’s private interest is not seen to be “advanced by any particular donor or group of donors at these events” hardly means such behaviour is acceptable.

It’s time to close the door on this practice.