Not Walking on Sunshine. Basking in Sunshine.

I was somewhat surprised with Steve Berman’s latest Enterprise Bulletin column here:

Walking on Sunshine

Steve goes to great lengths to defend the indefensible. Namely the growing gap that now exists between those who happen to have won life’s lottery. In terms of life long job security, gold-plated pension plans, index linked pay raises, extended health care. All paid for by the long-suffering tax payer, whom in most cases can only dream of such largess, but always ends up footing the bill.
Steve mentioned the town clerk in his cloying column. I will take his lead and run with her as an example. Let’s be clear I am not picking on Sara and from what I hear she is very good at her job, but it is a good case in point. I was astounded when I found out that she earns $137,412 per year. But in his column Steve qualifies this with a rather glib “The position of Town Clerk is of significant importance, and is required under the Municipal Act. To criticize her salary by posting that her “biggest risk is a paper cut,” in comments on the E-B article online, shows an ignorance regarding the position”.
There is no exact match in the private sector for Sara Almas position as town clerk but judging by her duties and responsibilities the closest I could get to it would be an “Executive Assistant”. I did a Google search on what the expected salary of this position would pay in the private sector, or what the Canadian average is. I came up with a low of $47,376 and a high of $70,906 please see link below:

Canadian Salary Wizard

Add to this the small town location and complete lack of any decent employment prospects in Collingwood, and it would be generous to allow a salary in the median portion of this salary range so let’s say $60k. No let’s be really generous let’s say $65k. Less than half of what our town remunerates for the same position. I would also venture to guess that if this position were advertised province wide in that type of salary range, the town would have well qualified people lining up down Hurontario St to apply for it. This example is repeated throughout middle management at town hall.

Steve’s other example is of a firefighter “Perhaps you’d like to say that again, while standing at the top of a 50-foot ladder in over 1,000 degree heat, trying to save lives.” Well of course in that situation we would all over value the roll of a firefighter. But when was the last time our local pampered fire department were called into that type of service? The last fire of this type that I can remember was when the Masonic Lodge burned to the ground on Hurontario Street, that was 15 years ago. I suggest that our local fire department are more likely to be dealing with the more mundane kitchen pan fire or cat removal from tree type of firefighting roll.
The other thing that sticks in many peoples craw about a few firefighters, is that the $80k – $100k per annum salary is still not enough. To add insult to injury I occasionally hear local legitimate contractors complain that they did not get awarded a small contracting project because a local firefighter/handyman under bid them by 50% on a cash deal. Obviously because they have too much spare time on their hands. I have an idea about our local firefighters. Why don’t we pay them a basic salary of say $50k per annum, then pay them on a per fire basis of say $100 for every mundane kitchen pan fire on an ever increasing upward scale all the way up to say $10,000 for the once in the firefighters career over-dramatized example that Steve used in his column. If that ever happened (it won’t), by all means supplement their income with small service and contracting jobs and relax whilst on duty in their “Taj Mahal” fire station. Because at that point the playing field with the private sector would then have been evened up a little. I also venture to guess that if this were ever the case, we would still have young men and women lining up for positions in our local fire service.
When I first completed trade school, as a licenced tradesman, public service jobs were paying around 20% less than the private sector. The idea was you take less money but get better job security. Years of successive gutless politicians pandering to these very vocal unionised workers, has led to the system being turned on its head with no end to the madness in sight.
This town has a budget crisis on its hands, we are $60M in debt with no cognitive plan in place to pay back any of it. I heard many stories lately, of the penny pinching that had been going on during the recent budget process. But what I didn’t hear was anything like “Wage Freeze”. It’s the elephant in the room that none of our elected politicians ever want to address or talk about. In fact in the last provincial election the hapless Tim Hudak did try to do exactly that, but the subterranean like deep pockets of the provincial union funded publicity machine attacked him mercilessly into submission.

I usually enjoy reading Steve’s scribbling’s, he is normally a voice of reason in the wilderness. I’m not sure why but it seems in his new roll as columnist, he has suddenly gone very pro-establishment in his views and commentary. I want the old Steve back.


15 thoughts on “Not Walking on Sunshine. Basking in Sunshine.

  1. “Perhaps you’d like to say that again, while standing at the top of a 50-foot ladder in over 1,000 degree heat…..”

    I’d be worried about that too. The melting point of an aluminium ladder is 660 degrees!!

  2. Pingback: Kathy Jeffrey vs. Ian Chadwick: YOU decide, who deserved the $10K | enough is enough

  3. Check out the salary of the director of public works and engineering at 152K plus benefits. And the individual is not even a Professional Engineer. The town of wasaga beach and blue mountain have professional engineers in those positions and their pay is 20 to 30K less. Why are we overpaying for underqualified people?

    • The Director of Public Works & Engineering was pulling double duty for most of last year. After being promoted to the Director’s role, he continued to fulfill the responsibilities as the Manager of Engineering (his previous position) until John Velick was hired to take over.

      I don’t know for sure, but that might explain the higher salary (might want to see what that position paid in previous years).

      It’s also very ignorant to call him under qualified.

      • Ed Houghton had the job in previous years and his salary was never disclosed. Everyone knows this and why. I have no idea if he was doing more than one job to earn the compensation or not. Ed took the acting position as CAO for no compensation. I guess not everyone is as generous (or foolish). My comment about him being underqualified is that he is not a professional engineer, versus the fact that staff in Wasaga and TOTBM are. There is a difference in education (and pay). That was the comparision I was offering.

  4. I questioned the 2.25% increase and received blank face looks. IF the county, Meadford, Town of Blue Mountians and Clearview all only received a 1.5 to 1.8% and The govenment rate for Canada is 1% and Ontario 1.3%. Ontario lost 20,000 jobs last year in the manufacturing section. How can the town justify an increase of 2.25%.

  5. Nobody youre an idiot. and know nothing about what your local fire department does. Before you write this crap get the facts.

      • Collingwood has had a large industrial presence since the Federal Government investments in the Centennial in 1967 that saw a number of industries locate here. We have seen some close and many move elsewhere but we still have a rather significant industrial employment base; who are also large users of electricity, water, waste water fees and property tax payers. Collingwood has a large commercial component do its property tax base as well. People often look at a fire department and see just the cost but fail to recognize that the trained professional firefighters, fire prevention officers and public education personnel are huge economic drivers for our community. The fact that Collingwood has had a largely full-time professional department with additional professional part-time (volunteer) staff has provided us (the town) better opportunities in bringing and maintaining businesses and large residential growth to Town. Our professional well trained fire fighters are part of a package that our Economic Development Officer and I when I served as Mayor would use in promoting our community over another community.
        Insurance companies in assessing risk for property insurance (google it or check the IBC-Insurance Bureau of Canada) policies include whether your Fire Department is full-time, composite, volunteer, a nearby water supply( municipal systems), a water tanker accreditation; are all factors in determining how much we pay for our houses, our commercial and our industrial insurance policy premium. Collingwood’s rates are better because our risk is less than many other communities.
        I think when it comes to contract negotiations and the mediation, arbitration process there is room for plenty of discussion on how and why arbitrators only see a forest and never the tree. Local conditions do mean something and the retention compensation issue that has been applied to all departments across Ontario is one example of an unfair costly arbitration process.
        The province has talked about trying to hold the line on costs with some employees but have failed miserably in providing the real tools necessary for a respectful discussion with employees.

  6. Nice try Leo. Lots of jobs and positions require all and more than what you state in your job description in your comment. Very few of them pay close to $140,000 per year in the private sector. Time for the madness to stop.

  7. Nobody:
    Steve Berman’s comments on the “worth” of the Town Clerk are much closer to the mark than yours. A municipal Clerk fulfills a number of important functions set out in a variety of provincial statutes. The Municipal Act, Planning Act, Municipal Elections Act, freedom of information/protection of privacy legislation are but a few examples of laws which set out the significant duties served by the Clerk in the public interest. Your analogy of a municipal Clerk’s job to that of an “executive assistant” is untenable. Knowledge, training and on-going professional development are required to maintain a Clerk’s skills set and stay current with new legal requirements. Most municipal Clerks are members of a professional organization known as AMCTO…the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario. AMCTO offers a CMM designation which is an accreditation program certifying one’s commitment to municipal excellence. Proper performance of the Clerk’s duties is fundamental to the functioning of local government. Our Town Clerk is worth it!

    • Thanks for the comment Leo. A quick qualification for my readers. Leo is the town of Collingwood’s lawyer.
      As I said above there is no equivalent to town clerk and many other municipal positions in the private sector . But take a look at this link:
      This shows a salary for this exact same position in New York State in the $50k range.
      The thrust of my post was to underline the growing difference between the salaries of those in the public service and those of us that pay those salaries.

      • I thought the town has now gone with another law firm. That would make Leo, the previous lawyer. I may be mistaken.

    • I wanted to echo the comments of Mr. Longo (Leo) who is a resident of the Town of Collingwood and one of Canada’s premier OMB/Land Planning Use Solicitors. I worked with 2 different Clerks locally and our Deputy Clerks and 2 Clerks at the County level; all of them were extremely knowledgeable in the various pieces of provincial legislation for which they have some responsibilities for at the local level. I always thought of the Clerk as Switzerland, a neutral professional whose purpose was to oversee the actions of the local council within the rules and regulations established within the provincial legislation (Municipal Act, Municipal Elections Acts, Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, Planning Act and a whole lot more). The Clerk is also the Department Head for the By-law enforcement department within the Town. The Clerk’s role is significantly more responsible than an Executive Assistant role, they are key component of a competent management team of the Municipal Corporation. The salary grid is established based upon educational requirements, responsibilities, authority over others within your department and a host of other job requirements. A person is hired for the position and can receive a salary within the range established for the position on the grid. Collingwood and the County of Simcoe have been well served by their respective Clerks and Deputy Clerks. I wish them well and keep up the great work.

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