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BIDLACK | In politics, we get what we pay for – coloradopolitics.com

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Hal Bidlack


When George Washington became commander of the nascent American military, he was offered a salary, extravagant at the time, of $500 per month. Washington, a successful landowner, nobly declined the salary, insisting instead that he would work for expenses only. And Washington was meticulous about he record keeping, only billing the Continental Congress for the exact amounts he spent in service to his country.

As it turns out, there were a lot of expenses…

Washington billed, over the course of the roughly seven years the American revolution, just under half a million dollars. He billed the Congress for lots of mutton, as well as for beef, cabbage, beets, lobster, and veal. He also claimed the cost of refitting his “chariot,” referring to his carriage, and he billed the US for a broom, though it was quite a deal at only 6 pence. In today’s dollars, Washington billed expenses in excess of $14 million. But he won the war, so it all turned out OK.

When he was elected our nation’s first president, Washington again offered to work for expenses, but the Congress declined his magnanimous proposal and insisted instead on a salary of $25,000 per year (by the way, if presidential salaries had kept up with inflation, the current president would make over $775,000 per year, rather than the $400,000 he now gets).

I thought of old George when I was reading a Colorado Politics story this morning that reported on the expenses paid to our state legislators during 2021. It seems some of our elected officials claimed per diem monies for days that the legislature was not, in fact, in formal session. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are represented in all the various groups: those who took lots of per diem and those who took very little. And given the political climate in our nation right now, I suspect that many readers may already be ready to call for the recall, if not the imprisonment, of the aforementioned legislators. 

The per diem available to our elected folks comes in two varieties: a rate of $45 per day for those that live within 50 miles of the State Capitol, and a rate of $219 for those who live outside of the 50-mile radius. The article notes that quite a few of the members claimed per diem for days the legislature was not in session and that seems to imply some shenanigans, but that’s not the full picture.

The article does note that 2021 was a particularly strange year, with a partial session followed by a COVID break, then more session, and lots and lots of online meetings and events. We pay our members of the state House and Senate a tad over $40,000 per year. Now, for lots of folks, that isn’t too bad.  It’s about what I made as a captain during my military career. Many of the folks reading this missive might well make closer to the national average of roughly $31,000, and who therefore can’t imagine why the legislators would need per diem on top of that salary. 

But here’s the thing: folks on the Democratic and the Republican side of the aisles, in both houses, work very hard. And is it really realistic to ask a representative from, say, Delta County or from Lamar to drive home every night? Should a person serving from Durango or Fort Morgan be expected to just suck up the cost of driving to work in Denver? Knowing a few of these elected folks as I do, I can personally vouch for the hard work of, well, all of them, Dems and GOPers; and that work is not limited to only the session days. 

And as it turns out, when you rent an apartment in Denver to serve in the legislature, the landlord does not charge you only for the days the House and Senate are sitting in session. Oh, and the restaurants still charge for meals on weekends. Look, no one goes into politics to get rich. Heck, I even believe that the single worst member of the U.S. Congress, our own Lauren Boebert, likely thinks she is serving a noble goal and is not in Congress to get rich. 

So please let me offer a thought: we way underpay our elected officials, and that’s a bad thing for democracy. In politics, as in buying washing machines, one thing is true: you get what you pay for. If we were to institute a system where in we only paid our elected officials, say, a dollar a year, we might think that we are forcing money grubbers out and will then elect noble people who only want to serve. But here is the problem: we are also creating a system wherein only the rich can serve. Do you really want the legislature to be made up of only wealthy people? Would you really feel represented by such a legislature?

People complaining about what our elected officials are paid is as old as, well, Washington. But even the man who couldn’t tell a lie about chopping down a cherry tree (spoiler: didn’t happen) worked the system. We need the good people of both Denver and Delta counties to be able to serve. We want folks from Westcliffe and Campo to work with people from Cortez and Rangley. And to get people of quality we need to make sure they can afford to serve. 

While it may be great fun to complain about legislative salaries and per diems and such, it remains vital that the best and the brightest be able to afford to work on behalf of the people of Colorado. George might even agree.

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Politics This Morning: Final pieces of 2021 vote puzzle expected today – The Hill Times

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‘These are big shoes,’ Yasir Naqvi said of previous MPs who represented Ottawa Centre, Ont.
As of press deadline on Sept. 21, the Liberals had won or were leading in 156 ridings, the Conservatives 121, the Bloc Québécois 32, the NDP 27, and the Green Party in two.
Difficulties with voting captured the attention of Canadians on Twitter, as many complained of long lines, being turned away at polls and issues with Elections Canada’s website.

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Politics Briefing: Meet the new Parliament, same as the old Parliament – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

With remarkable precision, Canadian voters are sending MPs back to Ottawa in virtually identical numbers to the party standings in August when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a snap federal election campaign.

Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals were re-elected Monday for a third time and a second consecutive minority government.

As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals were leading or elected in 158 seats, followed by 119 seats for the Conservatives, 34 for the Bloc Québécois, 25 for the NDP and two for the Greens. The People’s Party of Canada did not win any seats and PPC leader Maxime Bernier finished a distant second to the Conservatives in the Quebec riding of Beauce.

The Liberal gain of one will likely change as the 158 seats includes Kevin Vuong in Spadina–Fort York, who currently has a narrow lead over the NDP candidate. The Liberals disassociated themselves from him late in the campaign after a dropped sexual assault charge was revealed. Should Mr. Vuong win, he will likely sit as an independent, but the Liberal Party did not immediately comment on the situation when asked Tuesday morning.

The most dramatic statistics in Monday’s results are the projected seat changes compared to party standings in the House of Commons before the election. As of Tuesday morning, the Liberals are up one seat (including Mr. Vuong), the Conservatives are down two, the Bloc is up two, the NDP is up one and the Greens are down one.

Those statistics do mask the fact that parties saw some incumbents defeated, but made up for that with gains elsewhere.

For instance, two Liberal cabinet ministers were defeated: Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan lost to the Conservatives in the Nova Scotia riding of South Shore-St. Margarets, and Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef lost to the Conservatives in Peterborough-Kawartha.

Yet the Liberals may have made two notable gains in Alberta, where it had been shut out entirely in 2019. Liberal candidate George Chahal won the riding of Calgary Skyview, while Liberal Randy Boissonnault currently has a very narrow lead in Edmonton Centre.

Given the need for regional representation, at least one of the two Liberals from Alberta would be promoted to cabinet. This would create challenges, however, for Mr. Trudeau’s efforts to have a gender-balanced cabinet.

Unlike past elections, it will take a few more days until final results are known. Elections Canada received more than one million mail-in ballots this year, which is far higher than normal. The option was promoted as an alternative for Canadians who did not wish to vote in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elections Canada spokesperson Matthew McKenna said the counting of those mail-in ballots will begin Tuesday.

“We expect the vast majority to be counted and posted by tomorrow (Wednesday), but there may be further delays in some ridings,” he said in an e-mail.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. Filling in today is Bill Curry. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Canada federal election results: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win third consecutive election, fall short of a majority: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a third straight election on Monday, but fell short of the majority they sought in the snap vote and will return to government with what will effectively be a status quo Parliament.

The Liberal victory left Erin O’Toole’s leadership of the Conservative Party in jeopardy. The Tory leader rose to the helm of the party last year promising to deliver in seat-rich Ontario but he struggled in the campaign with questions on how he would handle the pandemic and wavered on key platform pledges.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have a minority again. What now? The new(ish) Parliament explained: After Sept. 20′s election, the balance of power in the House of Commons is largely unchanged between the Liberals, Conservatives, Bloc, NDP and Greens. Here’s what the results show and what leaders say they’ll do next.

After failing to secure majority, Trudeau will face questions within his caucus: Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took a risky political gamble, triggering a snap election during the fourth wave of the pandemic in pursuit of a new majority mandate. He ended winning another minority mandate instead.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s ideology shift was not enough to surpass Liberals: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole steered his party back toward the ideological centre of Canadian politics in 2021 and made this shift a key selling point during the five-week election campaign. But it was not enough to win Canada’s 44th general election as Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will form the next government.

Jagmeet Singh still holds balance of power after 2021 federal election but NDP doesn’t make major seat gains: The NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh will be returning to Ottawa with its balance of power position intact, but the party’s hopes of major seat gains came up short.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

Justin Trudeau takes a selfie with a supporter at the Jarry Metro station in Montreal on Sept. 21, 2021, after the Liberals won a minority government the day before.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted commuters at a subway station in his Montreal riding of Papineau, where he was re-elected Monday. The Liberal Leader is not scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday.

LEADERS

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is scheduled to hold a news conference at 4 p.m. ET in Ottawa.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is scheduled to hold a news conference at 9:30 am PT (12:30 ET) in Vancouver.

Itineraries for Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet and Green Party leader Annamie Paul were not immediately available.

OPINION

Gary Mason (The Globe and Mail) on Erin O’Toole and the Conservative Party brace for an ugly war over his shift to the left: “There is little doubt Mr. O’Toole is girding for an internal fight, one that could get very loud and very messy and has the potential to lead to a complete fracture of the conservative movement.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) If this election was a test of leadership, all of them failed: “None of the front-running candidates in this election campaign ventured to engage with challenging ideas, or dared step offside of politically advantageous positions. That bodes poorly for whatever faith the public should have in the capacity of the next government, whatever its specific composition might turn out to be, to capably deal with whatever crisis comes next – be it climate change, or an aging population, or another pandemic – just as long as the tough but necessary decisions risk political penalty.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on A battle between fear and loathing that both sides lost: “Consider: Had the election been held on schedule, two years from now, the pandemic would (please God) have been long over, the mass vaccination program, with its associated mandates, a distant memory. Without the oxygen of this approaching “tyranny,” Maxime Bernier’s campaign might never have got off the ground. But call an election in the fevered atmosphere of a public-health emergency; spend the entire campaign insisting on the very policy, vaccine mandates, you had previously rejected as “divisive”; steer your campaign straight at the PPC, literally and figuratively, and who knows what profitable mayhem you can create?”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) Trudeau had just enough resilience to return to office, but doubts about his intentions remain: “He looks the same, still, at 49. But six years ago the Justin Trudeau of 2015 was a figure who for many seemed to symbolize good intentions, even for some who weren’t sure about his politics or ability. The 2021 Mr. Trudeau pulled through a campaign in which he had trouble convincing folks he had the right motivations.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) Erin O’Toole tried to refashion the Conservative movement and deserves another chance to lead: “Moderate suburban voters will support Conservative government. We know that because most provincial governments are conservative, of one stripe or another. Many would vote Conservative federally as well, if they could trust the party: a Conservative Party of fiscal responsibility and individual freedom; a party that takes pride in our country while recognizing where we have fallen short; a party that supports business but understands the vulnerability of workers, that protects property but cares for the earth. Mr. O’Toole bet big that he could build and sell such a party. It didn’t work this time. But he could still be the next prime minister, perhaps sooner rather than later.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Liberals' bank surtax is 'pandering politics': Former RBC CEO – BNN

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A former chief executive of Royal Bank of Canada said the federal Liberals’ plan to slap a surtax on big bank and insurance profits “makes no sense” and called the move a purely “political decision.”

“That type of policy is pandering politics,” said Gord Nixon, who is also chairman of BNN Bloomberg parent company BCE Inc., in an interview Tuesday. “It might sell well in terms of achieving votes but it doesn’t make any sense from a policy perspective.”

The Liberals proposed a three-per-cent additional tax on profits that exceed $1 billion for Canada’s biggest banks and insurance companies as a way to help pay for new program spending, although some Bay Street analysts feel the plan lacks crucial details.

Nixon implied he isn’t necessarily surprised politicians took aim at big banks given his prior experience as RBC’s CEO and president from 2001 to 2014.

“Why the banks? Other than they’re an easy target,” he said. “The banks always deal with political issues.”

He said there are a few sectors, such as technology and grocers, that fared much better than banks and insurers through the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggests the targeted tax has political undertones.

“The banks actually didn’t do very well during the pandemic. You look at the three-year returns on banks, they’re up less than five per cent. The S&P is up close to 15 per cent,” he said. “I’m not suggesting there’s hardship there. But their earnings were very strong the last two quarters, largely because they were reversing a lot of loan losses that were taken when the pandemic first hit.”

Instead of a bank tax, Nixon would rather see policies that help attract business investment and talent, something he felt the campaign platforms proposed by Canada’s major political parties lacked.

“A lot of the issues that needed to be discussed were not necessarily discussed. And I think clearly, the result is that there is no mandate, if you will, given to the Liberal Party.”

Another one of Nixon’s concerns is the ballooning federal debt burden. The Conservative Party was the only major federal party to propose bringing the budget back to balance within a decade.

“We can’t just spend and spend and push that problem down the road. One of the problems of politics – and it’s all political parties – is it’s very easy to spend when you don’t have to live with the consequences of that spending for many years down the road. But there’s always a day of reckoning,” he said. “That day of reckoning is ultimately going to appear whether it’s through higher inflation or anemic economic growth.”

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