2.01.2014

Expensive Sunshine

In an effort to follow through on their pledge to be more transparent, or conversely, forced to disclose information due to an ever-sinking image and under public pressure, the Alberta government released a so-called ‘Sunshine list’ revealing the salaries and perks for government employees who make more than $100,000 per year.

At first glance, the sheer number of highly paid staff in all Ministries is astounding, each seemingly full of ‘Senior Manager’ personnel with their own gaggle of ‘executive assistants’.

Hey, big spender...


A closer look reveals blatant areas which seem to be bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. 

Let’s take the Ministry of Culture as an example.  The mere existence of a ministry with the purpose of creating and/or overseeing the development of culture is a topic more than worthy of debate in and of itself.  Since when does a government define what ‘culture’ is?

Nevertheless, it exists and we’re paying for it.  Big time.  In that one ministry itself, there are no less than 55 Senior Managers.  Added to that are 21 ‘Executive Manager 1’ and 6 ‘Executive Manager 2’ positions all making more than $100,000 annually.

That’s 82 big earners right there making big bucks – your big bucks.  Who knew overseeing the lottery and governing the ‘arts’ was such a complicated process needing so many skilled, highly paid workers?  And I didn’t even count the lowly ‘Managers’.

Turning to the Executive Council which includes the Premier’s staff, a curious and startling figure stands out for me personally.  Alison Redford’s Director of Communications, Stefan Baranski, hauls in a sweet $199,383.17 per year as the Premier’s number one spin doctor.

Now to be fair, it can’t be easy to have a job that requires doing the impossible.  Being charged with the task of applying lipstick to the pig that is this government must be difficult at the best of times, let alone with embarrassing issues cropping up on an almost-daily basis.

Keeping a straight face while trying to legitimize $22 dollar cups of coffee and questionable jaunts around the globe does require some skill.

But it is in my own personal dealings with Mr. Baranski that causes me concern about value for tax dollars.  There have been a few times our paths have crossed in the social media world, and each time I was left wondering what his job description actually was. 

Side note: twice during the heat of debate (more like after infantile posts and cheap shots directed at other party’s), I questioned if Mr. Baranski was in fact on duty at the time.  Were taxpayers paying his salary for him to spend his time posting immature tweets during office hours?  Twice the online conversation ended right there and then.

The perception is that the Premier’s Director of Communications is paid handsomely to assume the position of Lead Twitter Troll.  For a couple hundred grand a year, not a bad gig if you can get it, I suppose.

Ultimately, all the Sunshine list has done is to confirm what has long been suspected by many Albertans:  in a time of unacceptable debt and deficit when government spending should be the first focus of restraint, the progressive government of Alison Redford continues the tradition of growing bureaucracy and wasteful spending.

Expensive and needless Sunshine, indeed.

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