Monday, April 02, 2012

Stop your bloody whining and do more with less like the rest of us!

Good Day Readers:

So Mr. Martin and his colleagues on Parliament Hill are complaining about budget cuts? To save money why not try this? Since we're now well into the electronic age why not dispense with those impotent MP flyers that mostly end up in the garbage or you often see scattered on the floor of apartment building lobbies? Do that and you shouldn't have to cut staff.

Clare L. Pieuk

In Pat Martin's case he could his twitter skills and advanced command of the Queen's English to replace the use of flyers thereby saving taxpayers' money.
MPs say House cuts could mean cuts to their office staff

NDP MP Pat Martin says, 'I don't care about my pension, I don't care about my wage freeze but you should not have touched MPs' office budgets.'
NDP MP Pat Martin says MPs' office budgets should not have been cut. (The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright)

By Jessica Bruno, Bea Vongdouangchanh
Monday, April 2, 2012

MPs say they’re worried and upset that their staff, and therefore their ability to serve constituents, may have to be cut in the wake of $2-million in cuts to their office budgets, announced last week by the Commons Board of Internal Economy.

“I don’t care about my pension, I don’t care about my wage freeze, that’s fine,” said NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Manitoba). “But you should not have touched MPs’ office budgets.”

The Commons Board of Internal Economy announced last week prior to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (Whitby-Oshawa, Ontario) tabling the budget that MPs’ office budgets will be cut by $672,000 per year over each of the next three fiscal years, for a cumulative permanent budget reduction of more than $2-million by 2014-2015.

Since last fall, the board has been searching for efficiencies in the House budget in line with the government’s strategic and operating review. While Parliament was not bound by the cuts program, the House, the Senate and the Library of Parliament all opted to find five to 10 per cent to cut out of their operating budgets.

Parliament, including the Senate and the Library of Parliament, spent $561-million in 2010-2011.

The House expects to spend $445.9-million this fiscal year.

The Commons Board of Internal board announced last week that it would cut $30.3-million from the Commons’ budget, for a decrease of 6.9 per cent of its total funds by 2014-2015. Of that, $13.5-million will come from MPs and House Officers’ budgets, with the budgets of party and House leaders, as well as caucus chairs and research offices to face a 7.5 per cent cut.

Committees, Parliamentary Associations and Parliamentary Exchanges will be cut by $3.8-million and $13-million will come from House administration. The House of Commons spent $424.2-million in 2010-2011.

“Savings for the House Administration will be achieved primarily through budget reductions, operational efficiencies, service delivery transformation, attrition, retirements and the elimination of vacant positions,” according to the office of House Speaker Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan).

MPs’ base pay has been frozen at $157,000 since 2010, and their base office budgets have been frozen at $284,700, though geographically larger and highly populated constituencies get more funding.

Mr. Martin said that cuts to MPs’ office budgets will compound the effect of the $5.2-billion in cuts to the public service announced in the budget last week.

“The more you cut the public service, the more people end up turning to their MPs’ offices for basic services,” he said. “Travel, yes, fine, curtail the travel, all those things I can support, more teleconferencing instead of trips across the country, all of that is common sense, but it was a big mistake to trim the MPs’ budgets even the little bit they did because that could mean the difference between another staff position and serving people in the constituency.”

He noted that his office has already turned into a “de facto” immigration office, handling 200 cases at any given time.

“I will probably have to reduce not a full staff position but some hours. Knocking one full timer down to part time would be predictable in the current scenario,” he said.

Mr. Martin employs one full-time and one part-time person on the Hill, and two full-time staff and a part-time person in his constituency. His budget is $284,700.

Conservative MP Daryl Kramp (Prince Edward-Hastings, Ontario) said that he expects MPs to be “attentive to each and every dollar” but he is also concerned that cuts to the budget will force him to reduce staff.

“I have more staff than most Members of Parliament in their riding, because I have a huge riding, and I just hope that I’m able to afford that I can keep all my staff,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to have a dedicated staff with me.”

His office lists four constituency assistants and one Hill assistant, and his budget is $310,510. His constituency staff must handle countless requests on a variety of government issues, he noted.

“As a matter of fact, one of the greatest surprises I’ve had as a Member of Parliament … is the scope of the interests of the people who walk through the door,” he said.

The office handles passport, Employment Insurance, immigration, tax, crime, business, health and family concerns, he said.

“We all have to pay a price on this. We can’t ask the Canadian public to take a little shave if we’re not prepared to do the same ourselves,” said Mr. Kramp.

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He added that he is fortunate that his riding is not that far away from Ottawa, unlike many of his colleagues.

“I do worry about some of my colleagues that live a long way away, who have a lot of family.  They need to be able to focus on both family and their jobs,” he said.

MPs will no longer be able to fly in business class on flights less than two hours, and staff will always have to fly economy. Any flights not between Ottawa and a MP’s constituency will also have to be economy class.

The Senate’s Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee also announced the results of its budget trimming efforts last week. The Upper Chamber will cut five per cent from its budget over the next three years. Its budget for 2012-2013 is $92-million.

Liberal House Leader Marc Garneau (Westmount-Ville Marie, Quebec) was no-nonsense about the cuts: “We have to adjust to that reality. … You have less resources and that’s just something you have to live with.”

NDP MP Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia) said that his office will make do.

“My staff both here on the Hill and in Dartmouth, we work hard to provide services to our constituents, and we’ll continue to do that the best we can with whatever resources we have available to us,” he said.

With files from Laura Ryckewaert


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