The question of how much our elected representatives should be paid is always a political hot potato (no "e", Mr. Quayle). This recently came up in the MSM, and was also discussed at daveberta's blog.
There tend to be 2 schools of thought on this issue. The first is to pay well enough that you attract the "best and brightest": CEO's, Doctors, Lawyers, etc. That by paying in excess of $100,000 per year, you're a lot more likely to get people of high quality and character in the positions. Under normal circumstances, this might be true. However, this is politics. Once you start offering more and more to elected officials, you may make the position more appealing to honest people of good character who truly want to make a difference, and won't have to suffer a significant downgrade in their pay in order to do so. BUT, you may also begin to attract a less desirable element to your candidate nomination processes, in ALL parties. Case in point: Calgary West. If MP's were paid, say, $200,000 in base pay, you would have all manner of sneaky, slimy, scummy people taking every shortcut and stacking every Tory nomination meeting (IF they ever get around to having one!) trying to get named the Tory candidate - because, for all intents and purposes, it's a slam dunk. You win the nomination, you get elected (barring the Kirk Schmidt juggernaut). So, if you can find enough ways to cheat and steal the nomination, it's worth $200,000 to you.
Granted, this is an extreme example. But, it would certainly happen in a lot of ridings where one party is considered the "dominant" one. The federal Liberals are having trouble fielding candidates for the next election, but do you think they're having trouble in the ridings they are assured victory, or at least a good chance at it? No. They can't find people to run in many of these ridings, because the potential candidates know they'd be a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter of whatever party is dominant in that riding. Increasing MP pay won't make this any less frequent - it will just increase the number of people running for the dominant party's nomination in "barely contested" ridings.
Ken Chapman raises a good point - we shouldn't reward longevity with the gold-plated pensions that we do. Here's why: Because when someone is elected, their entire focus should be on serving the people of their constituency. BUT, if they know that "in 10 years, I'll be pension eligible", or "4 more years until I hit the next pension tier", their focus will NOT be on representing those who elected them - it will be on GETTING RE-ELECTED. Don't get me wrong, politicians should, as a general rule, want to keep their jobs. But by making it worth $120,000 per year for the rest of their lives, they will do or say ANYTHING to gain re-election, knowing full well that, so long as they win that seat for one more term, they never have to follow through on ANY of it, and their pension will be secure.
There has to be a better way... but I can't figure out what it should be.
Nation? Any ideas?
- ES (bitten by the Facebook bug)