August 24th, 2019

Disconnect between government and public has to stop

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on August 2, 2019.

In the last week there have been many comments on social media about salaries in the public versus private sector.

Some would seem to indicate people are not clear about the difference between the two – people working for various levels of government compared to those working for private businesses.

A private business and/or company is selling a product or service that must stand on its own merit. People choose to buy from the company based on their opinion of the product, service and value for the money being spent. A private company is successful, or not, based on whether the public want what it is selling. The public can choose to support one company or another based on their perception of value for money.

This in and of itself keeps a private business on its toes to meet the expectations of the consumer and therefore their money. If they are wildly successful they may pay very high salaries to reward employees and management. If business falls that can all change rather quickly.

The public sector provides services and is funded by taxpayers. The taxpayer has very little control over the taxes they must pay. The taxpayer also cannot choose to take its business elsewhere – he or she is stuck with what is provided no matter how good or bad the service is. There is no competition.

It is true that about every four years taxpayers have a chance to vote politicians in or out but a lot can happen in those four years.

This week Calgary City Council limited the opportunity for public feedback on whether it was appropriate to spend $275 million of taxpayers’ money on a new arena. They then made the decision themselves to spend taxpayers money on this.

What is particularly interesting is that Calgary is still grappling with huge cuts to public services because property taxes got out of control and taxpayers were screaming mad. The politicians seem to have put that behind them already.

One of the comments following that decision was that taxpayers can vote them in or out at the next election. It is really a bit late by then, the money will be spent and there is little control over anyone else you vote in.

When governments at every level forcibly extract taxes from the people, and that is how our system works, the people have every right to expect that that money will be very wisely spent. This includes paying staff reasonable salaries and pensions in line with the private sector. It also means not having more staff than is necessary and limiting travel and hotel expenses to what is in line with most private companies.

The disconnect in government has to stop. The taxpayers is not an endless pit of money where more and more can be extracted.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to https://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions, email her at gslade@medicinehatnews.com or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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