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The money lists

The annual money lists have been published and once more we get to see how much some public figures made in the past year. And to compare it to what we made over the last 12 months.
The annual money lists have been published and once more we get to see how much some public figures made in the past year. And to compare it to what we made over the last 12 months.

The billionaires list was topped again by Bill Gates of Microsoft closely followed by Warren Buffet - no surprise there. A newcomer to the billionaire’s club was Harry Potter author J.K Rowling. Having had years of experience with Microsoft software and the blue screen of death, I begrudge Gates his billions. I don’t suppose there is any chance of a refund based on the number of times Windows has crashed or been patched.

But the enjoyment from reading the Harry Potter stories and then sampling Bertie Bott’s Every Flavoured Beans – I salute Rowling. We bought a package of those magical jelly beans for a trip recently. Whenever conversation lagged we would eat a bean and the commentary that followed eating an ‘ear wax’ or ‘sardine’ bean was good for many miles.

Next came the money list of our local provincial civil servants and employees. Hey, some of those people are doing all right with our hard-earned tax money! If one applies the same comparison as with the Billionaires to the over $100,000 club, there might be some questions to the value received.

The media folks always compare their salaries to the doctors and municipal civil servants – but we don’t hear what they are making. Top dogs like Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson pull down a nice wage, I am certain, while the local newscasters, like many of us, plod along with more mundane remuneration.

The question is - are the taxpayers getting value for their money with civil servant salaries? Of course those salaries are set by the politicians we elect so I suppose we can’t complain. Salaries have to be comparable to what the private sector makes in order to attract competent people. When we see what executives of banks and insurance companies make, it is easy to see what is driving government salaries.

Then we have the 4,000 employees of Ontario Power Generation who took home more than $100,000 last year. The explanation was overtime due to blackouts and other operating problems. There was no mention of the financial loss the company sustained last year because how well a company is run has nothing to do with executive salaries. In fairness, the salaries at OPG have their base in the old Ontario Hydro wage grid which was overly generous so who could blame management for the current level of wages at OPG.

One must keep in mind that these are only the T4A salaries that are reported. Add in the cost of monthly perks and benefits then add the cost of post-retirement benefits and the figures soar like a helium balloon accidentally freed by a toddler outside a mall. It’s a good thing the powers that be do an annual performance review to ensure the taxpayer/shareholder is getting value for money.

Some ONR engineers made the list, but I guess the person responsible for the safe running of several thousand tons of rolling stock should be well compensated. As should the section crews who keep the track in good repair. The next time you get on the Dash 8 for a trip to Toronto consider that the young pilot is making about half of what the ONR engineer is being paid. Enjoy your flight.

The last money list in the Nugget was the most interesting. It detailed the amount of money the candidates spent on the municipal election. Donations aside, it is little wonder that councillors baulked at the Mayor’s suggestion that they all serve for no compensation.

One could almost draw a relationship between the amount of money spent and the placing in the polls. The total reported for the North Bay candidates was over $125,000 in donations and self-contributions. Add to this the money spent by the unsuccessful council candidates plus the school board candidates and the total would be closer to $150,000.

Of course, these citizens did not run for office with a financial bottom line in mind, they wanted to serve the community. Their many contributors must have felt the same way as they chose to support the candidates who would serve for the greater good. At least there were no large donations reported that could have a bearing on the way an elected official might vote on any given issue in the future. (A quick ROI: $30,000 spent against a return of $150,000 over 3 years …. divided by the number of hours spent – looks like the return on Nortel stock!)

Unlike judging Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling or the ONR engineers, contributors will have to wait a few more months before they can tell if they backed the right horse(s) in the municipal race. On the scorecard so far: City staff changes; the property tax increase; water filtration funding; reduced transit service; North Bay Hydro; sale of parkland; downtown parking; Seymour development; Casino (pending); sale of the Chief . . . but who is keeping score?

Bill Walton

About the Author: Bill Walton

Retired from City of North Bay in 2000. Writer, poet, columnist
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