It’s pretty common to hear a certain phrase when a council or a board vote themselves some enhancements to their pay package.
It goes something like this: ‘Well, you have to offer good money if you want to attract good people.’
It’s not just public bodies that like this phrase. It’s also used to justify the astronomically higher salaries paid to board members, presidents and CEOs of private corporations.
The thought process behind the phrase isn’t often questioned, though it certainly was when it was one of the justifications for the Metro Vancouver board of directors voting themselves a hefty 15 per cent pay increase at the same time as they authorized a retirement allowance for directors leaving the board, retroactive to 2007 at about $1,100 per year of service.
The key part of the phrase is ‘good people,’ or some variant. Good can mean a lot of things, but let’s look at two ways: good as in a capable, qualified person, and good as in ‘of good character.”
The implication is that the people you need for these lofty positions are so busy, that you need to bribe them… well, give them a strong incentive to give up their time.
A person of good character, of course, needs no bribe; if there is a need for their skills, you would think they would step forward regardless of whether the pay is slight or substantial. In fact, the need to be lured by high pay is anything but a good character.
Capable? Who says the only people who are capable are those in the one per cent or otherwise too successful to consider volunteering their time?
There are lots of capable people around, many of them already volunteering their time at non-profits and other organizations that help build our society — people who have already proven they don’t need to be bribed to contribute.
Oh, and one last thought — let’s not mention the idea of retirement allowances to our city council, okay? We don’t want to give them ideas.