Transfer of Power in B.C. Costly says Taxpayer Watchdog
Prince George, B.C. – It isn’t official yet – but if a Green backed NDP government comes to power in B.C. there could be some significant costs associated with it.
That from Scott Hennig, communications VP with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
He says it’ll start with the usual transition costs associated with firing political staffers and replacing them with new people.
“Setting them all up with new email addresses and new phones and new business cards and everything else. That costs money. As do the severances of all the people you’re getting rid of anytime you change government. You can count on that.”
But Hennig says costs can really skyrocket when you start firing a significant number of people within the bureaucracy.
“So, when you start getting rid of deputy ministers, directors of departments, heads of crown corporations, VP’s of crown corporations, that’s when it starts getting costly because every one of those people have big dollar salaries and big dollar severances,” he says.
“Political staff and the cost of printing new cards and all that – you’re looking at a few million bucks there.”
Hennig says those “big dollar salaries” are usually a minimum of $250,000 per year.
“I haven’t looked at B.C.’s deputy minister salaries recently but they usually make in and around the quarter million mark a year, sometimes higher. And if they’ve been there for 20 years some of their severances can be pretty significant,” he says.
“You could be looking at paying out severance that would last for two years – a half million to get rid of one person.
“The same goes for CEOs of crown corporations. I haven’t looked at those salaries recently either but you could easily see utility crown corporation heads making $400,000-$700,000 a year or more and severances built in that require 18 months or two-year payouts. We’ve seen numbers that high.”
But Hennig says there are things governments can do to help mitigate at least some of the transition costs.
For example, limiting the firing of top bureaucrats and only doing so when the replacement would be “considerably better and not just someone who you might owe a political favour too which is often the case.”
He says the incoming government could also limit the size of cabinet as done in Alberta when the NDP came to power in 2015.
“I think there was only 12 people in the cabinet. It’s expanded, which was to be expected, but the original cabinet was quite small which really helps when you’re not having to hire staff for 25 ministries.”
Hennig says new governments can scrimp on others costs too – unlike the Trudeau government when it came to power in 2015.
“When they changed government, the photography costs went through the roof because every minister went out and got brand new head shots and pictures on their websites talking with regular people. There’s a lot of that kind of stuff but if you can consolidate as much of that as you can that would be good.”
And if things don’t work out for the Green backed NDP alliance and a snap election is called that would be even more expensive.
Andrew Watson, communications manager with Elections BC, says the budgeted cost for the 2017 provincial election was $44,466,000 over three fiscal years (15/16,16/17 and 2017/18).
He says the actual cost will likely be published in the report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the 2017 election next January.