Ken Clark, One Man’s Opinion
There is an old saying that suggests truth is stranger than fiction. There is also a reported fact from within the civil service bureaucracy that is too unimaginable to be believed; so bizarre that the Canadian public just can’t grasp that it is actually happening.
I refer to the fact that right now Ottawa is busily sending out a flood of cheques to bureaucrats across the land – tens of thousands of dollars apiece – for no reason except that for years they turned up and did their jobs. The money isn’t a bonus or a reward; it is straight cash, a free cheque on top of their usual salary and all the other perks and benefits they receive.
The justification for the windfall is understood by few. Since time immemorial, federal civil workers have had the right to “severance” – even when retiring, or quitting their jobs on their own initiative. By contrast in the private sector, severance is typically paid only to someone who has been forcibly separated from his/her position i.e. getting fired or laid off.
For decades evidently, governments just paid these false severance payments and kept quiet about it. The Harper government finally recognized the absurdity of this arrangement and put an end to it. Unfortunately they still have not learned that two wrongs do not make a right. The only way they could do it, they figured, was to buy off the workforce with one fat windfall.
At this point I wish to repeat a belief of mine that such gross misuse of the public purse is nothing short of theft and should not go unpunished. We all know what would happen in the private sector under a similar circumstance. Why should there be any difference in the public sector? Is this what government calls representing the people?
The CBC reports the mishandling of civil servants’ severance settlements could cost as much as $6 billion in all. Treasury Board president Tony Clement has been sending it out in dribs and drabs of a billion or so a year, and insists it’s a good deal in the long run, because it will save him from sending out even bigger payoffs in the future.
“The savings for Canadian taxpayers are significant,” he told reporters. Who does this man think he is fooling; there are “no savings” resulting from a mishandled payoff. The questions Clement should be addressing are why were severances agreed to in the first place, why were they allowed to be paid out for so many years and who can the taxpayers hold responsible for such an error by government? My answer to the last part of my own question is every single Member of Parliament right on up to the Prime Minister.
As with most things in life there are always two sides to a problem. If the government of Canada errs in judgement on any issue, or fails to represent the people productively, the people have not only the right to complain but the duty to do likewise. However our system does not allow the people to go any further, and in my book that is not right. We all know full well that this is not an isolated case of gross misuse of the public purse. Almost any day of the week, in newspapers across the country, we see one example after another of taxpayer’s money being used irresponsibly or wrongly by both the federal or provincial governments.
There seems to be no accountability whatsoever for these inappropriate acts by government when they become known; no disciplinary action taken, or punishment handed out to those responsible and some-one has to be responsible. On the other side, nobody is willing to step forward and say ‘this is wrong’.
Well in my book it is wrong for a government to act so irresponsibly; it is also wrong that our system does not provide a course of action that would correct such misuse of the public purse before the cost to taxpayers reaches into the billions of dollars as in this particular case. There is also one additional wrong, committed by the taxpayers themselves, through their apathetic reaction, to such governmental injustice that of necessity needs to be addressed.
The people must vociferously protest such inane practices by government; not one or two individuals here and there, but huge masses of individuals from every riding across the country. If we tolerate our government continuing to pay severance to people who are not really losing their jobs, just how much farther might this government madness actually go.
This scenario is outrageous, disgraceful and beyond belief; except for the fact that it is actually happening in real time. Who was it that uttered the words what fools we mortals are? When governments fail to represent the people honestly and judiciously the people have no recourse but to speak out; governments on the other hand have the duty to listen, then to react in an appropriate, fair and timely manner. This is what Representative Democracy is all about.
When I hear or learn of situations like the above, the following quotation comes to my mind: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil; is for good men to do nothing.