EDITORIAL – In the key of G now

Jeff Burgar

To use a popular expression, it’s nice to sit around a campfire, hold hands, and sing songs like Kumbaya. Not a care in the world. No concern about gathering wood for tomorrow or food for winter. Somebody else is busy putting some snacks together. We are all one big, happy family.

It’s easy for this to come to mind when the topic of wage raises for the hard-working and diligent employees at any of our local governments arise at council meetings. To sum it up, it’s a wonderful Kumbaya moment.

“Gosh darn,” you can almost hear councillors saying, “Jack and Jill and Bob and Barb and all the rest of the crew been doing such a gosh darn job, they earned, that’s right, earned nice raises again this year. So heck, why not pass out a boost? It isn’t coming out of my pocket, or any other councillors. Let’s not quibble and whine and look like Scrooge.”

Generosity among elected officials is a well-known fact these days. Politicians want to be seen as good people, not just as politicians. If it comes to a choice, most elected officials would rather be seen as smiling, friendly, Santa Claus types. That’s much better than looking like some wrinkly, tight-fisted, crank scrounging over every nickel.

That’s how they think custodians of the public purse, which is what they are, are viewed by the public. Senior management also wants to be seen as accommodating. Friendly, willing to fight for the underlings. In fact, right across the board, we all want to sing songs.

High Prairie town council is a great example. One need only consider the amount of time it took to finally fire an incompetent town manager. Heck, some councillors couldn’t even bring themselves to produce an honest performance appraisal of the work the fellow was doing.

“Great work.” “A fine job.” “Lots and lots of help,” were just some of the phrases tossed about by pretty well willfully blind councillors.

And then there was a town treasurer who babbled and baffled councillors, few of whom would say he often made no sense, not to mention his latest $100,000 tax calculation mistake.

So, it should be expected that when raises are on the agenda, many of these same councillors will be the first to put their hands up and say, “Yes!” Jolly good show, people. The taxpayers won’t mind at all, and who cares if they do? We are so much wiser!

Which they did at High Prairie’s council meeting April 5. A cost-of-living increase? Yes!

But consider, the Town of High Prairie uses a salary grid. For many staff, raises are automatic every year as one accumulates experience. In good times and bad, goodies are passed out.

Companies like Canadian Natural Resources are having staff take wage cuts in these times. Our provincial government is looking to hold the line even on teachers and nurses. Other companies in the oilpatch as slashing workers. And some local councillors are still saying, “Let’s give raises!”

Those voting against: Mayor Linda Cox and councillors Arlen Quartly and Brian Panasiuk.

The rest? Passing out marshmallows, piling logs on the fire and smiling.

Share this post