Friday, March 2, 2007

when the press doesn't let up ... ; comments are amusing ..

Leadership losers draw Liberal salaries
But party won't say how much Kennedy and Hall Findlay earn
JANE TABER March 1, 2007 The Globe and Mail

Gerard Kennedy and Martha Hall Findlay are receiving salaries from the Liberal Party to help prepare for the coming election, but how much they earn is being kept secret.

(amusing to read the responses in the comments)

The lack of transparency is causing concern among some Liberals and leading to speculation that private deals were made because Mr. Kennedy and Ms. Hall Findlay were the two leadership candidates who dropped off the ballot early and threw significant support behind Stéphane Dion. The secrecy is also driving speculation among some Liberals that Ms. Hall Findlay and Mr. Kennedy are earning big salaries.

There are whispers that the two are receiving as much as $15,000 a month, which would be $180,000 a year. Some other Liberals believe their salaries are only about $100,000 a year.

Bob Rae, who placed third in the leadership convention and remained neutral on the last ballot, is not receiving a salary from the party for his work on the election platform. He said that he is spending “a fair bit” of time on it but is still keeping up his consulting, mediating and public-speaking business.

Senator Marie Poulin, the Liberal Party president, would not disclose who is receiving salaries.

“I'm not at liberty to discuss their arrangements, the arrangements of anyone of the Liberal family with you,” she said. “We must exercise complete discretion on the arrangements that we have with all of our members and all of our staff.”

Mr. Kennedy said this week that he was receiving a salary for being Mr. Dion's adviser on election readiness, but said he was “not supposed to” reveal how much he is earning.

“That's pathetic for anyone to characterize it in any such way,” he said of suggestions that a deal had been made with the Dion campaign.

Ms. Hall Findlay, who is travelling across the county consulting on policy ideas for the election platform, said, “Whatever the Liberal Party pays its people, frankly, is private.”

Mr. Rae, Ms. Hall Findlay and Mr. Kennedy are the only three leadership candidates who do not have day jobs as MPs.

They all have debts from their leadership bids. MPs earn $147,700 a year, plus expenses.

When he was Opposition leader, Stephen Harper paid an MP's salary to Conservative Party worker Josée Verner, a defeated candidate in the 2004 election, to help with election readiness in Quebec.

Ms. Verner was elected in 2006 and now is the CIDA minister.

A member of the Liberal Party's national executive said pressure is growing for the issue to be discussed at a national executive meeting this month.

The member, who asked not to be identified, said that he has had calls from other executive members who are concerned about the issue.

He said he has not been told how much the two are earning, and the issue is whether the party is getting “good value for its money.”

Mr. Kennedy would not comment on the speculation that he may be earning more than the nearly $130,000 salary he was paid as Ontario education minister.

He said, however, that his current Liberal job was “not the best offer I had.”

“It's a good position in that it's something I'm doing that is useful,” he said. “I was reluctant to take something on for exactly this reason. ... I had better offers both financially and situationally I'd be able to stay in Toronto ... but there is a job to be done and I'm happy to be part of it.”

He said people can speculate all they want about his salary, adding that he didn't ask for any particular amount.

Mr. Kennedy also said that he turned down an offer to serve on Mr. Dion's transition team.

Ms. Hall Findlay said she gave up “more lucrative opportunities to do this work for the party on this short term basis. ...”

Ms. Poulin said she is confident the arrangements are fair.

“I have to tell you that, as president, I have to make sure that there is fairness in all the system and I'm confident that there is fairness in the system,” she said.