As readers of this blog may have ascertained, I consider police officers, along with firefighters, teachers, politicians, the myriad of bureaucrats in offices across this fair land, and a host of other government employees in the main overpaid and overcompensated. Not just salary-wise, but also in terms of early retirement, gold-plated and inviolable pensions, manifold benefits packages, sick leave galore, and so on. The origins of this have to do with contracts designed to keep pace with the private sector, so that public service jobs would attract talented people. But, given the ‘downturn’ in the economy (one could argue, simply a return to reality), the public service has become ever-more disconnected from reality. For example, the contract with the Ontario Provincial Police stipulates that they have to be the highest paid police force in the province; hence, anytime any other police service gets a raise that matches their own wages, up the wages go, in an apparently never-ending upward spiral…The same principle applies to numerous other public employees. Our teachers are about yet-again to go on strike…
But I don’t think even those who may disagree with this thesis were prepared for and can defend the chief of police and his deputy in Peterborough who, when the regional police force was reamalgamated as a city force, technically, ‘lost their jobs’, even though they were immediately appointed chiefs of the city force. There was no actual loss of employment, nor of income.
Au contraire: Their contract said they were ‘terminated’, which required that they be paid a severance package of $205,000 and $171,000 respectively. This is on top of their already inflated salaries, which they never lost for one second, and, barring societal collapse, never will lose.
Even the mayor of Peterborough, Daryl Bennet, is up in arms, claiming that residents of the city are disgusted with their greed.
Yes, on paper they are legally due the money; but in a moral sense? Why should these public servants, every cent of whose salary is funded by hard-working, home-owning taxpayers, be paid twice? Even the president of the University of Western Ontario, who took a double salary of close to $1 million for foregoing his ‘sabbatical’, paid the money back after an outcry from the staff and student body (hmm…I am somewhat surprised to see that Western, after awarding ‘Dr.’ Henry Morgentaler an honorary Ph.D., on top of all their other nefarious deeds, still has some moral indignation, at least when it comes to money).
I don’t really care if these venal cops keep their money. In the big picture, ’tis but a drop in the bucket of the amount we waste on police and the myriad-other public services in this province and country (how ‘safe and secure’ do we have to be?). Consider the case a few years ago of the millions of dollars in ‘mismanagement’ of the Ornge Emergency services under Chris Mazza, then the highest-paid public employee in history.
What I am glad to see is that the extent of this boondoggle, and the deep sense of entitlement amongst our hired ‘public servants’ is slowly but surely coming to the fore and to public consciousness. But perhaps economic reality, namely that the whole structure is simply unaffordable, will catch up with us first. After all, Ontario just had its credit rating downgraded early last month due its ‘unmanageable’ debt, quickly ballooning out of anyone’s control.
What does bother me is that their conscience does not bind and urge these public servants to give the money back, and to be satisfied with an already satisfactory salary. Western’s president only responded to fierce public indignation, but the police chiefs are more immune in their ivory towers from such negative feedback (after all, the president of a university has to interact to some degree with the hoi polloi; not so, police chiefs).
A strict and literalist adherence to ‘law’, especially for the benefit and whim of those who wield and enforce it, is a short road to anarchy and chaos. As I mentioned in my last post, law is a means to an end, a way of forming and guiding our own conscience, which should always be paramount.
Now we have just begun the campaigning for the federal election. Ask yourself: How many of these would-be politicians, themselves very handsomely recompensed on the taxpayer dime, actually want to serve this country, and make it a more virtuous place to live? And how many want the golden ticket to a recession-proof job, public acclaim and power?
Or, to put it another way, how much of the ‘servant’ is left in our public servants?
August 3, 2015