Public service or private gain?

This is a guest column; ‘Mihael Willman’ is the pseudonym for a concerned Canadian – JG.

by Mihael Willman

When former Toronto police chief Bill Blair announced earlier this year that he was going to seek the nomination for the federal Liberal Party, because he wanted to remain in public service, I nearly choked. Sorry, but anyone earning $367,719, as well as $3,006 in benefits a year as a police chief, amounting to over $3 million during his ten year term, and in line to receive an equally extravagant pension, has a lot of gall referring to his career as “public service.” And let’s not forget his generous severance package which amounted to a full year’s salary.

Not only that, his annual salary as police chief of a city of a couple of million inhabitants is an amount that is nearly twice that of the President of the United States who has responsibility not just for his own country, but for world affairs. And now Blair is hoping to get elected to Parliament where he will once again be in receipt of a generous salary and equally generous pension should he win and last the necessary six years. In other words, Toronto taxpayers will be paying him twice over, first his generous pension as a police officer and police chief, and then should he get elected his MP’s salary and possible future pension! “Public service” indeed! More like taxpayer-funded private gain.

If he were truly interested in “public service” he would take his generous pension and, rather than look for another well-paying position, work as a volunteer on behalf of some worthy organization. That would be “public service” of the highest order.

However, it should not be much of a surprise to anyone that the people who go into so-called “public service” are, for the most part, really only interested in achieving as much as possible for themselves. A case in point is John Baird, who, after being in politics for about twenty years, decided to get out before the rules change regarding MPs pensions and immediately found himself a $1 million a year position working as an advisor for Barrick Gold. Wonder whether he will be lobbying his former colleagues on behalf of his new bosses?

Not to be overlooked is the fact that during his time as Minister of Foreign Affairs, his department granted millions of dollars in public funding to both Barrick Gold, as well as to projects run by its owner Peter Munk. While supposedly complying with “The Conflict of Interest Act” by not having direct dealings with either in the year before leaving office, one can only wonder what kind of deals or promises were made for possible future employment in return for favorable financial consideration in the preceding years? And as if this was not enough, about a month after his retirement announcement Baird was also nominated to the board of Canadian Pacific, a company he dealt with as Minister of Transportation. Just how many more well-paid positions are in his future?

One need only check out the number of lucrative positions former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien have accumulated in the years since they retired from politics to see that this is normal practise for politicians, particularly former Prime Ministers, Premiers and ministers. Wonder what cushy, well-paid private sector job or positions are waiting for Peter MacKay who announced his retirement, temporary or permanent, from politics a few weeks after Baird?

Then there are the politicians who go from one level of government to another, and depending on the pension plans, ensuring themselves a cushy retirement with generous pensions following short periods in their positions. All on the taxpayer’s dime, the same taxpayers many of whom don’t even have the luxury of looking forward to a pension from their employers.

Call me sceptical, but quite frankly I doubt that there are even a handful of politicians who can be said to be truly interested in the well-being of the country and its citizens. The majority are primarily interested in ensuring that, after guaranteeing themselves generous tax-payer funded pensions, they go out into the business world and rake in even more money as members of boards of corporations. Political connections and influence is what the corporations are paying for, not any kind of special expertise related to their business.

Please note: Mihael’s opinions are not always shared by