If we’re all in this together, it would be good to see Premier John Horgan trim the size and the pay of his cabinet. Horgan is set to name his new cabinet this week and making sure that his government walks the talk would go a long way to build solidarity with everyday taxpayers.
Many hardworking British Columbians have had their salaries reduced or they’ve lost their jobs entirely during the COVID-19 economic crisis. A smaller tax base can’t continue to prop up an ever-expanding government. Horgan needs to act accordingly when he constructs his cabinet.
How much should he trim? It would be easy for Horgan to form a cabinet that is at least 15 per cent smaller than his last one. Cabinet ministers should also take a pay cut.
There are currently 22 cabinet ministers and eight parliamentary secretaries in the B.C. cabinet. Reducing the number by 15 per cent would reduce those numbers to about 19 cabinet ministers and seven parliamentary secretaries.
B.C. cabinet ministers are currently paid a salary of more than $166,000 plus living allowances, and a 15 per cent salary reduction would bring their remuneration down to $141,000 plus living expenses. Working couple families in British Columbia have median incomes of about $80,000.
Reducing the size and cost of government would show solidarity with struggling taxpayers and help this government to understand what average people are going through.
It’s a move that other leaders have already made.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cut her own salary, and those of her cabinet ministers and her top bureaucrats, by 20 per cent. In Japan and India, politicians cut their salaries by 20 and 30 per cent, respectively.
Horgan should batten down the hatches at the B.C. legislature and reduce spending within the precinct wherever he can find savings there too.
The 2019-20 budget shows $158 million was spent on the Legislative Assembly and that expense is set to go up to $166 million in the 2020-21 budget. That spending should be going in the opposite direction.
Average working people in B.C. have been hit hard by the COVID-19 recession.
British Columbia’s summertime unemployment rate was higher than during the peak of the 2008-09 global recession despite reduced COVID-19 case counts compared to the winter stats and lighter restrictions on businesses by government.
Now, with higher caseloads and tightening government lockdowns happening this fall and winter, more people will be joining the unemployment lines which are currently hovering around a concerning 10 per cent. Horgan tightening his own belt and those of his cabinet ministers would help politicians better understand their constituents and make better choices that affect them.
While taking a pay cut is never fun, B.C. cabinet ministers are still sitting much prettier than most working people they are paid to serve. The bulk of their housing and travel expenses are covered by taxpayers, they have nice offices to work from and their benefits are gold plated.
B.C. cabinet ministers who are in office for more than six years are in line for very generous pensions when they reach the age of 65, with many being paid more than $70,000 per year upon retirement.
Horgan would engender some good will and start his new mandate off in an empathic way if he gave a nod to working people by reducing the number of ministers in cabinet and lowering their pay.
- Kris Sims is the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.