Thursday, November 11, 2004

Hypocrisy in the Prime Minister's Office

Thu, November 11, 2004
'Hypocrisy' in PMO
Martin boasts of opening up government, but his staffers' pay kept secret
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, Parliamentary Bureau

The prime minister's hires are part of an elite government group whose salaries are shrouded in secrecy. Pay ranges of all federal staffers -- including aides to cabinet ministers -- are subject to public disclosure guidelines. But Paul Martin's 75 staffers are exempt from the rules, which means the public doesn't even get a ballpark sense of their salaries.

"There's an overall budget and it's the chief of staff's discretion to staff the Prime Minister's Office accordingly, while maintaining the budget," said Marc Roy, the PM's associate director of communications.

As the PMO administers all facets of government and not just a single portfolio, "flexibility" allows the office to adapt to different situations with staffing needs, Roy said. Staff are compensated based on experience, ability and role and there are no caps on salaries.

PMO employees share a $5.5-million yearly salary pot.

Tory MP John Williams fumed that the exclusive club gets special protection while their boss boasts about making government more open and transparent.

"There's only one word for it: Hypocrisy," Williams said.

The Tory MP said the public has a right to know at least a ballpark size of individual salaries on the PM's payroll, especially since many staffers were "friends" who worked on Martin's Liberal leadership bid.

A furious NDP MP Pat Martin urged the PM to reverse the exemption if he's serious about fixing the democratic deficit.

"So much for transparency and accountability in the PMO," he said.

"Martin gets elected on all these romantic and flowery platitudes about transparency and accountability, but put to the test, clearly he falls short."