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NDP wants to know PMO staffers' salaries by Glen McGregor

Jan 31, 2012

Source: Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA — The NDP is calling on Treasury Board president Tony Clement to bring the same sunlight to salaries in the Prime Minister's Office as the government shone on the highly paid staff at the CBC.

The government on Monday introduced a written response to a written question from an MP who asked for salary details of top CBC executives and on-air staff.

The response indicated more than 700 CBC staff earn $100,000 annually, though it did not provide the names MP Brent Rathbeger had asked for before Christmas. He also had asked for the pay levels of CBC newscaster Peter Mansbridge and host George Stroumboulopoulos, but those were not provided.

"Mr. Speaker, CBC/Radio-Canada currently has approximately 730 employees who earn more than $100,000 per year," Heritage Minister James Moore said. "Their names and precise salaries are protected as per the federal Privacy Act and Access to Information Act."

On the same day, Clement introduced a response to a virtually identical request from the NDP for the same information about the salaries of political staff in the PMO.

That question was introduced in the Commons by Quebec New Democrat MP Tyrone Benskin, in a mischievous response to Rathbeger's queries about the CBC.

Also citing privacy law, Clement did not provide the names and salaries, but went further by declining to give even the total number of $100,000 salaries in the PMO — the same figure Moore gave for the CBC.

Instead, Clement — who promotes himself as an advocate for open government — listed the web addresses of the government's public accounts that itemize the total amount each ministers' office spends and a set of guidelines for ministerial staff salaries.

Benskin said on Monday the difference between the responses given by Clement and Moore shows an enormous double standard.

"The PMO needs to put its money where its mouth is," he said. "If they want transparency, be transparent."

Benskin laughed loudly when told that Clement will be hosting a conference in Ottawa next week on open government.

"As a minister, Clement has pushed forward with initiatives to enable Canada's public servants to use social media in the workplace and a broader initiative to introduce open government principles to the Government of Canada," says promotional material for the event at the National Arts Centre.

Many of the highly paid executives at the CBC could be making more money with private-sector broadcasters such as CTV or Global, said Benskin, who was an actor before entering politics.

Several Tory MPs are pushing for the CBC to lose its $1-billion parliamentary allocation and one MP has introduced a private member's bill to see the broadcaster privatized.

Benskin said Rathbeger's original request was a further attempt by the Conservatives to discredit the public broadcaster.

Neither minister's office responded to a request for comment.

© Vancouver Sun