Cornwall - Oct. 24, 2011 - I read a report today in the Sudbury Star that really caught my attention. It says that “the cost of saying goodbye to more than two dozen outgoing MPPs at Queen's Park comes to just under $5 million.” That amount is the total cost of the severance package entitlement that the 29 retiring or defeated members are to receive under Queen’s Park rules.
Some of the severance packages are expected to be as high as $250,000, for existing Cabinet Ministers such as the retiring Sandra Pupatello and the defeated Leona Dombrowsky. Retired Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim Brownell is among those that will receive a golden handshake on the public’s dime.
Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal Government recently introduced legislation that calls for fixed Election dates in the province Ontario. As such, Brownell and all those who sought election in October 2007 knew that if they were successful that their term would end on October 6, 2011. In the private sector, when an employee signs a contractual employment agreement that has a defined start and end date, there is no severance package awarded at the end of that term.
So why is there a severance package for our MPPs under the same circumstances? They knew that the term was four years long and that the public would choose on October 6th, who would return and who would not. Accordingly, I believe that defeated MPPs should not be entitled to a severance package.
That being said, I am in even greater disbelief that severance packages are being paid to those, like Brownell, who voluntarily chose to leave public service. Why should the public have to participate in his chosen exit strategy? How many Ontarians receive a severance package for quitting their job or retiring?
In the riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills, veteran MPP Norm Sterling was defeated in his nomination race by his own party. The Sudbury Star is reporting that Sterling will receive a severance package of $175,000. Like Brownell and others, I really can’t understand why the taxpayers of Ontario should have to pay this amount. He was defeated by the PC Party and not the public at large, so IF a package is payable – shouldn’t Tim Hudak and his party have to pay for it?
I am sure there are countless other priorities that Ontarians would rather see that $5 million spent on. Wait times for MRIs, cat-scans, special therapies, long-term care beds and others are a concern for many Ontarians. Clearly, there would be positive things that could be done in our education system with five million dollars. There is crumbling infrastructure, highways in need of repair, and municipalities struggling to balance budgets. My point is, that this large amount of money could have been better spent addressing other priorities.
When I ran for the provincial legislature in 2007, I ran knowing that if I was successful that my time at Queen’s Park would be guaranteed for a period of four years or less. At that point, I would either have to retire, seek re-election or accept defeat in the next election. I did not expect, nor would I have accepted a severance package at the end of my time in public office.
I would hope that Jim Brownell and the 28 other exiting MPPs would do the right thing and refuse these unnecessary and excessive severance packages.