Overtime Games and Other Rich Deals Soak Taxpayers

by Graham Lane

Published in the Winnipeg Sun, July 27, 2018

The majority of workers toil in the private sector. Leaving aside owners, bosses and professionals involved, free enterprise employment often pays less and provides fewer benefits (and security) than those working in the public sector (federal, provincial and municipal).

At one time, fading away in the mist of time, public sector workers were paid less than private sector workers although they were compensated with better benefits and security. Now, many in the public sector make more, in addition to enjoying security and better pensions and benefits.

Of course the taxpayer provide the largesse of income and benefits flowing to public sector workers. But, did you know the obtuse games being played within these dysfunctional systems that can make the advantages of working in the public sector even greater?

The overtime game magnificently rewards unionized public sector workers at mostly invisible  costs to Winnipeg property owners and the Province of Manitoba’s already gouged taxpayers.

Firefighters, paramedics, police, nurses, provincial jail guards and Hydro electricians are front of the line in bolstering their annual wages and pensions through the overtime game. Of course, for the extra largesse to work for these public sector workers requires  ‘helpers’ – the politicians and managers, all complicit in playing the game

Consider the case of a nurse with permanent part-time positions at two Winnipeg hospitals. He or she manages to take overtime shifts that provide even more pay as the shifts come on statutory holidays. Such a nurse could easily pocket six figure annual pay before income tax. And, how about the police officer or jail guard that claims a sick day that results in overtime for his working friend, with the ‘favor’ to be returned by him getting an overtime gig when his friend calls in sick.

Management, generally weak, go along, as do the politicians that allow union contracts providing workers time and a half and double time for pay after a public sector’s already short work week. How much does this form of gaming the system cost property owners and taxpayers? No one knows, no one even bothers to count.

What about doctors, receiving income from their private practices through MHSC (the Province’s health insurance agency) while pocketing healthy stipends from hospitals and the University of Manitoba? How about university professors: great salaries along with mouth-watering pensions and benefits- including administrative and research leaves? Not subject to any real oversight, some picking up consulting gigs, obliged to teach as little as one course a year.  Quite the life. Tenure provides salaries and benefits without risk of layoff or dismissal – no mandatory retirement for them.

Consider judges, and their hefty incomes, good benefits and working conditions. Displeased with their salaries, they bargain with governments like longshoremen supposedly used to do. Tired of being on the bench, head for supernumerary status – full pay, covering vacation periods and taking on projects from time to time. For some lawyers, being embroiled in the day to day combat of practicing law, going on the bench is like having been awarded a spot in heaven.

We can start fixing these and other cozy, invisible rip offs by finding and supporting political parties and candidates that will, at least, acknowledge the game and the costs that accrue for taxpayers.

New Manitoba Provincial Party on the Horizon

by Graham Lane,

Published in the Winnipeg Sun, July 13, 2018

Brian Pallister’s “one-man show” government sets the bar laughingly too low with his plan to ‘eliminate’ the provincial government’s annual budget deficit in eight years and two terms.  Worse is his too clever by half fake tax cut, planning to cut the PST rate back to 7% from 8% by bringing in his “made in Manitoba” carbon dioxide tax, set to devastate family budgets.

Reality check.

Manitoba needs an extensive make-over if it is to compete with other jurisdictions for jobs in an ever faster moving economy now facing disruption by Trump’s “make America great” policies.

But the leadership vacuum in Manitoba is vast. The NDP’s hopes for the next election are fatally wounded by its ‘history’ of boondoggles, its ownership by the public sector unions, and a leader who hails from the obsessive and unappealing identity politics bubble. As for the Liberals, they are going nowhere. Pallister is likely to win by default in 2020 unless something surprising arises.

Coming out of the ‘chute’ is Manitoba First, promising to transform Manitoba. The fledging new party is led by Markus Buchart, a seasoned lawyer with political experience – once the leader of the Manitoba Green Party. Currently obtaining party status (collecting the necessary 2,500 signatures required by Election Manitoba), the new entry into the political fray rightly claims that the provincial debt needs to be brought down and taxes and fees lightened.

The new party in waiting opposes Pallister’s looming carbon tax. If it achieves government, Manitoba First intends to begin trimming the public sector down to the Canadian average – while creating more innovative and customer friendly public services. It plans to deploy the savings into tax and fee reductions, and better environmental and road infrastructure. It’s goal: creating a more vibrant private sector to end the constant exodus of our young people and professionals.

Manitoba First positions itself as being fiscally conservative and socially progressive with a policy roadmap for a “confident, fearless, successful and growing Manitoba”. On Buchart’s agenda is achieving desperately needed real transformative healthcare, education and justice system reform – focusing on “improving outcomes and lowering costs”. Also, Manitoba Hydro would be set for an inquiry and long overdue reform.

As for tax reform, Buchart targets repealing the payroll tax and land transfer tax, reducing corporate and personal income taxes, and ending traffic fines as taxation policy.  (Notably, Buchart has been a key litigator defending citizens from a financially predatory traffic fine system.) Finally, he would end the Pallister Carbon Tax which would retrogressively penalize Manitoba’s most vulnerable citizens. He would join the nation-wide carbon tax revolt now underway (Saskatchewan, Ontario and, soon, Alberta).

A former Green Party Leader, Buchart has no concerns about the chronically hyped-up “climate crisis”, preferring to focus on real environmental issues like clean air and water, and doubling down on separating Winnipeg’s sewer and storm water drainage lines.

Conservatives tired of Pallister’s unserious program (particularly his carbon tax), and NDPers and Liberals who truly care about better, customer-focused public services, should get behind this new project by adding their signatures to the effort so Manitoba First can start its push for better public policies.

You can sign on (and see the full platform) at www.manitobafirst.ca.