Ever wonder why it's difficult for politicians to govern wisely? Part of the reason is straw men created by some in the media. Here's an example. Both the Toronto Star's Rick Salutin and the Vancouver Sun's Daphne Bramham recently offered up some faulty non-issues.
Normally at this is the time of year many BC families would be counting down the days until school resumed. But this year is different, with the ongoing BC teachers’ union labour dispute casting a pall of uncertainty over the start of the school year. It’s a classic example of the negative effects of a monopoly, and as is often the case with monopolies, ordinary families are the ones most affected.
Now that the province has reaffirmed its intent to lightly modify government employee pension plans, government unions will again try to divert the public from the facts.
For example, after my recent column on the ever-increasing cost to taxpayers of public sector pension plans, Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees and Marle Roberts, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Alberta), cried foul.
In Alberta, almost twice as many workers in the government sector possessed defined benefit pension plans in 2011 when compared with private sector employees. That might explain why so many government employees unions, from the Alberta Union of Public Employees to the United Nurses of Alberta, vociferously oppose modest pension reforms proposed by Finance Minister Doug Horner.
One benefit of column writing is the chance for feedback from readers, be they fans, critics or the merely curious. Responses arrive that reflect the rainbow of human emotion from cheery agreement to annoyance to the equivalent of typed-out road rage.
Much of what I (and my colleagues) do is analyze how politicians spend tax dollars and how governments affect our lives in multiple ways. As a result, any report or column that recommends a change to the status quo is sure to touch someone's interest. Predictably, that touches a nerve and sets off a reaction.
The government sector in Alberta is unhappy and they want Premier Alison Redford and her colleagues to know it. Universities are advertising against provincial reductions in their funding; government unions are activating their members about proposed pension changes, reforms that would make them more akin to the private sector and less like a taxpayer-funded entitlement.
It is not clear why the government sector believes it must be immune from change. The case for reform is not difficult to make.
Canadians routinely hear about alleged growing divides in Canadian society. But here is one rift that often goes unmentioned: the divide between the pension benefits of public sector employees and everyone else.
Such inequality incurs real costs, where ordinary taxpayers pay ever more for above-market, guaranteed pension benefits that ever fewer in the private sector possess.
As federal and many provincial governments continue to struggle with both deficits and finding ways to constrain spending, its odd that very little has been done on the compensation of public sector workers.
All told, TD Economics estimates that governments in Canada racked up $45.9 billion in deficits last year alone. Most governments in deficit continue to rely on a combination of trying to slow the growth in spending while hoping that revenues catch up.