Increases out of line at this time

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Premier Robert Ghiz

Premier floating review to support deputy ministers, but hard to justify

There is a good reason why the salary levels of P.E.I.’s deputy ministers are the lowest in the region and perhaps among all the provinces — we have by far the smallest population. It would make sense that the time and strain of doing the job here should not be as onerous. The chairperson of the O’Leary Village Commission is not going to make the same salary as the mayor of the City of Summerside.

The P.E.I. government says it is reviewing salaries and pension benefits paid to deputy ministers. Premier Robert Ghiz suggests the salary levels of P.E.I.’s deputy ministers are the lowest in the region. And well they should be. It only makes sense.

We’re sure our deputies are busy, work hard and are doing a good job. Why else would they be hired and retained? But this province is trying to balance a budget deficit of more than $50 million and start paying down a $2-billion debt. It’s not in a position to start bumping up salaries of deputy ministers to get them into regional balance.

Yes, we want to attract the best people possible and the salaries have to be attractive to get strong candidates out of the private sector to work on behalf of the taxpayers of this province. But let’s be realistic at what we can afford and what we expect from these deputies.

By coincidence, the province released its latest statistical review this week. P.E.I.’s 2013 population was listed as 145,237. Newfoundland and Labrador is 526,702, Nova Scotia 940,789 and New Brunswick 756,050. Which deputy minister of health should have the toughest job in Atlantic Canada and which province should be paying the top salary? Hmmm . . . Nova Scotia?

Our present salaries are generous. Of our 11 deputies, seven make more than $134,000 and three of those are over $145,000. The other two max out at more than $124,000. That’s not bad.

Premier Ghiz estimates deputy ministers in Atlantic Canada are underpaid by about $50,000 compared to all the other regions. Is he referring to Ontario, which has 13,500,000 people, and what is he suggesting?

Our premier argues current salaries make it difficult to attract and retain well-educated professionals qualified to run government departments and provide policy advice to cabinet. It’s expected the premier will support his senior staff. But deputies should be compensated with cost of living increases and that’s it. If they don’t like it, well, good luck somewhere else because there are lots of bright individuals anxious to work hard, do a good job and have a crack at those salaries.

At one time, the life span of a deputy might be four years because when a government changed, the deputies usually went out the door with the minister. The positions are not nearly as partisan these days but there is a job security risk and they deserve a good salary which they are now getting.

They are also getting a double pension plan where government covers all premiums and deputies do not have to pay into it.

An increase to cover the Consumer Price Index is acceptable, as long as it would accompany an elimination of the double pension earnings.

Some good advice for deputies is to reduce hospital wait times, bring energy costs under control, find better markets for lobster, improve our highway system, provide welfare recipients a decent income, increase employment opportunities, reduce the need for pesticides and then come see us about a bump in salary.

It’s time we live within our means and keep our expectations within reason. There is work to be done.

Organizations: O’Leary Village Commission

Geographic location: P.E.I., Summerside, Atlantic Canada Newfoundland and Labrador New Brunswick 756,050 Nova Scotia Ontario

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Recent comments

  • Chester L
    July 10, 2014 - 19:34

    The View from Here..........Chester L Kudos here for a balanced look at the cost of managing our province based on population and needs and requirements........we are so lacking in honest and forthright appraisals regarding what is the norm to do and it seems other than this comment it is all about " entitlement "...if you can not live on $142,000 then give me a call I will see if I can afford to take the offer.........other than this comment the rest of the discussion put forth by the Premier is laughable.........thanks again for the sanity in reporting.......;)

  • nitpicker
    July 10, 2014 - 15:59

    Salaries should be based on the demands of the position, the significance of the role, and the skillset required to do the job. To suggest a raise is required solely because some other province pays more is preposterous. That said, I am not sure that the demands of the position is as directly proportionate to population size as the Guardian seems to think. In some cases, I would argue the job is the job, regardless of how many people live in your province.

  • ugh
    July 10, 2014 - 13:28

    Consider yourselves lucky. Some big city burbs have bigger population and run just fine without a mass of so called leaders. I believe Cape Breton's population exceeds ours and they do not have the luxury of being a province and being very top heavy.