Premier Christy Clark has questioned a decision made in secret by an all-party committee to extend $127,000 in severance pay to MLAs who are recalled by voters.
And so she should.
The decision was made in February 2011, at a time when recall campaigns were targeting B.C. Liberal MLAs over the imposition of the harmonized sales tax.
It was belatedly disclosed in minutes from the Legislative Assembly Management Committee, which began public disclosure of its proceedings this fall after a critical report from B.C. Auditor General John Doyle.
The severance amount equals 15 months of an MLA’s base salary, which was frozen at $101,859 a year in 2010, when the B.C. government imposed a two-year freeze on public service salaries.
Severance has been available to MLAs defeated in elections since 2007, and also to those who retire at election time before reaching six years in office, when they becoming eligible for a lucrative pension.
Clark was asked Thursday about extending severance to recalled MLAs.
She said the government doesn’t control the committee, which is chaired by legislative speaker Bill Barisoff and has both B.C. Liberal and NDP members.
“I think a lot of people in a tough economy would look at that and say they don’t get it, and I am one of those people,” Clark said. Good for her, now do something about it.
Clark added she has not had an opportunity to speak to committee members. Barisoff, MLA for Penticton, was one of the B.C. Liberals targeted in anti-HST recall efforts that fell short.
Barisoff defended the decision Thursday, telling reporters that MLAs who are recalled because of cabinet decisions rather than personal misconduct deserve severance so they can make the transition to another job. It can be difficult for defeated MLAs to find work, he said.
What a crock.
What Barisoff doesn’t seem to understand that not getting re-elected is like your employer letting you go and, okay, maybe an argument can be made for severance, albeit a weak one.
Being the subject of a successful recall, whether because of a cabinet decision or not, is akin to being fired with cause.
After all, the MLA could have argued against the cabinet decision.
Ask any employer, which in this case is the British Columbia taxpayer, whether being fired should result in severance. The answer is “no.”
The move to give a golden handshake to those whom the public have said aren’t fit for office any longer, is yet another slap in the face to those who actually foot the bill.
Let’s make it clear the decision for severance came from an all-party committee, not just the governing Liberals.
And, it shows the disconnect those who inhabit Victoria often have with the rest of the province.