Recently a SaskParty Cabinet Minister – a really, really lovely person who I truly like – said to me, “You know, you could write something nice once in a while.”
I want to. I really do.
But after the SaskParty’s absolutely absurd behavior this week – and outright attempts to mislead us, it won’t be happening today.
On Tuesday, Premier Brad Wall announced that all Saskatchewan MLAs would be taking a 3.5 per cent pay cut, and the government expected the public service sector to do the same.
Seems a bit rich coming from the same government that increased the number of MLAs from 58 to 61, or by 5 per cent, less than a year ago, but whatever.
In order to make the pay cut official, the Board of Internal Economy (BIE) had to meet, and was scheduled for 8am Wednesday morning. The BIE is one of the few places where the SaskParty government cannot move forward on decisions without the NDP present.
The NDP didn’t show up to the BIE pay cut meeting. They said they felt that rubber-stamping the 3.5 per cent increase would mean they’re also endorsing the 3.5 per cent decrease to public service salaries, a condition which Premier Wall made abundantly clear was attached to this decision. Further, they had some additional demands around the budget for paying MLAs and Ministers that they wanted the government to consider.
Whatever. The SaskParty are playing politics with this announcement. The NDP are playing politics with the BIE. The taxpayer rolls their eyes.
So the meeting was supposed to start at 8am. By 9.05am, Economy Minister Jeremy Harrison, who is one of the government members on the BIE, was on the John Gormley Live Show, positively beside himself with righteous indignation.
In the United States, fact-checking has become a daily grind in most newsrooms. I mean, the media has always been about fact-checking, but historically they could be fairly confident that the statements coming out of the White House were accurate.
Not so much anymore.
(I know, I know, I’m just part of the dishonest media blah blah. Save your comments, my alt-right friends, I’m not approving them. Or giving a shit.)
Today, I think the SaskParty government is desperately in need of some fact-checking, because what they’re spinning is, at the very best, “alternative facts”.
So I’m going to take you, sentence by sentence (transcribed from the podcast here), through what Harrison – again, the Minister of Saskatchewan’s Economy – said to Gormley this morning, and counter it with some facts of my own.
First, Harrison got into why the meeting was called.
“The purpose of the meeting was to put in place the provision to reduce MLA and Ministers salaries by 3.5 per cent but clearly the NDP don’t agree with that…they won’t put their money where their mouth is and take the pay cut themselves.”
Yesterday, immediately after Brad Wall made his announcement on salaries, NDP Opposition leader Trent Wotherspoon followed up with reporters. You can watch the video here.
“Will you take a 3.5 per cent wage cut?” was the first question to Wotherspoon, asked by the seriously smart and fabulous Stefani Langenegger from CBC Saskatchewan.
Seems pretty clear to me, but I guess Harrison must have misunderstood that single syllable, because here was his next statement to Gormley:
“Mr Wotherspoon said yesterday that perhaps they’d take a look at this, well clearly they’re not….they refuse to take the reduction in pay that all of us are taking.”
Funny how he knew Mr. Wotherspoon said a thing the day before, yet on a live newstalk (emphasis on “news”, which typically means telling the truth, right?) radio show, managed to suggest Wotherspoon said a thing completely different.
Harrison went on in this vein for a few more sentences, then, lest we were all confused about his mighty powers, announced defiantly:
“I’ll tell you John, this is going to happen. There is going to be a reduction of 3.5 per cent…whether the NDP show up at the meeting or not, this is going to happen.”
Despite saying, literally thirty seconds earlier, that the NDP didn’t show up at the Very Important Meeting because they’re not willing to take the pay cut, Harrison goes on to admit he knew the real reason all along.
“They called for Ministers to take a 20 per cent larger reduction…under our plan Ministers are already taking a 49 per cent larger reduction than MLAs.”
The NDP want SaskParty Cabinet Ministers to take an extra 20 per cent cut in salary, which Harrison scoffs at, as Ministers will already be sacrificing 49 per cent?
More on that in a minute.
“In addition we have a smaller cabinet and we’ve reduced ministerial travel by 70 per cent in real dollars from the time the NDP were in government.”
Real dollars? Not fake ones?
Despite the various shuffles and amalgamations, today’s Cabinet is the exact same size as it was in 2006-07.
As for travel, score one for Harrison there. In 2006-07, Ministerial travel totaled a whopping $1 006 686. In 2015-16 that number was $358 889, for a reduction of 65 per cent.
And so it should be.
I would hope that the advent of Skype, teleconferencing, smartphones etc would on it’s own have significantly reduced the need to travel for meetings, whether to North Battleford or New Zealand.
But still, $1 million on travel was bananas.
“We have very significantly cut Ministerial costs already..”
In 2008-09, the SaskParty’s first full fiscal year, Ministers earned $43 000 per annum, and there were 16 Ministries, for a total of $694 000.
In 2015-16, the number of Ministries was reduced to 13, due to:
- the amalgamation of the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation into the Ministry of Economy;
- the Ministry of Justice absorbing the Ministry of Corrections;
- the dissolution of the Ministry of First Nations and Metis Relations (seriously).
Ministers earned $48 000 per annum in 2015-16, which should bring the total cost of their salaries down to $624 000.
Except it doesn’t, because upon amalgamation of Economy and Justice, the government doubled the Ministerial salary expenditure* for those two Ministries, appointing two Ministers for each. The salary expenditure has also gone up in other Ministers which pay out two Ministers, such as Health.
Further, while the size of the Ministry of Finance didn’t increase in size, the Finance Minister’s salary did, to $55 000.
This brings Ministerial salary costs for 2015-16 up to $775 000, or 12 per cent higher than 2008. It’s not crazy or anything, but it’s not “significantly cut”, either.
But my personal favorite quote from Harrison from this interview came next, when he repeated the charge that the NDP’s demand that Cabinet Ministers shave 20 per cent (as opposed to 3.5) off their salaries was positively ludicrous, because Cabinet Ministers would already suffer a
“49 per cent larger reduction under (the proposed 3.5 per cent reduction) plan than MLAs.”
Soooooo, Ministerial salaries are being cut in half?
Here’s Harrison’s math:
“Well, MLAs are taking 3.5 per cent reduction on their base pay – which is about $3300.”
Indeed – 3.5 per cent of an MLAs current annual salary of $94 668 is $3300.
“Ministers are taking another 3.5 per cent on their Ministerial pay, which is another $1700.”
Yep – 3.5 per cent of a Minister’s annual add-on salary of $48 000 is $1700.
“So Ministers are taking a $5100 pay reduction while MLAs are taking $3400, so it’s about a 49 per cent larger reduction per pay for Ministers.”
Hang on hang on hang on… let me get this straight.
A plain old MLA’s salary is going to go from $94 688 to $91 388 – down by 3.5 per cent.
A Cabinet Minister’s salary is going to go from $142 688 ($94688 MLA salary + $48000 Minister salary) to $137 588 – also down 3.5 per cent.
Yet the Minister of the ECONOMY is claiming that his fellow Ministers are somehow martyrs, because $5100 is 49 per cent more than $3400?!
Pardon me for a moment.
Honest to god, I was originally going to call this blog dotheythinkwerestupid.ca.
It’s days like these that I regret not doing so.
Even Gormley called Harrison on that bullshit math, pointing out the Ministers’ higher salary.
“Right but the point that I think the NDP were getting at is the Ministers should take a larger reduction and that’s exactly what’s happening on our plan.”
That is simply, categorically, false.
It’s like the CEO of a company telling his employees that he is suffering more than they are, because he’s taking $1 million dollars off his $10 million salary, and they’re only taking $5000 off their $50 000 salary.
In Saskatchewan, Ministers and MLAs are taking a 3.5 per cent reduction in salaries.
I can’t believe I have to explain this, but what the NDP are asking is that SaskParty Cabinet Ministers reduce their $48 000 Ministerial salary by 20 per cent, or by $9600, as opposed to reducing it by 3.5 per cent, which is $1700.
Maybe I shouldn’t be anymore, but I was stunned when, despite the utter absurdity of Harrison’s 49 per cent more
jibberish statement, the Premier himself repeated it, verbatim, in Wednesday’s Question Period.
I’m so over this.
If you hear this 49 per cent more crap trotted out again, just know that the government is using it to mislead you, because they believe you’re stupid enough to believe it.
And if all this wasn’t enough, Harrison closed off his interview with one more hell of a con.
“We’re leading by example. That’s what the Premier is doing personally as well, by no longer taking a stipend from the party.”
Somewhere out there, Kellyanne Conway wiped away a single tear.
Are you f**king serious Harrison?
Are you seriously trying to tell Saskatchewan people that the Premier dumped his SaskParty salary top-up, funded entirely by political donors, as some sort of demonstration of austerity and solidarity with public service, in tough economic times?
What, is the SaskParty going to donate that $50 000 to the General Revenue Fund now?
Not even the Premier is trying to shovel that kind of manure.
“To the extent that there is any misunderstanding or misperception of what (the donor-funded top-up) is, I just think it is not worth it,” he said on Monday.
Maybe they do think we’re stupid, because apparently the Premier of Saskatchewan thinks we’re too dense to comprehend, or we’re “misunderstanding” the totally-above-board-kosherness of being paid by both the people who elected you to represent their best interests, and the political donors paying you to do the same for theirs.
“I have a very hard time believing they’re doing anything but posturing politically,” said Harrison about the NDP, wrapping up this dumpster fire of a radio interview.
I have a very hard time believing that this is real life.
For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert. I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
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*(March 9, 2017, 9:57am Edited – in an earlier version of this post, I said that Gord Wyant and Jeremy Harrison were each receiving a $96000 Ministerial top up. They aren’t.)