Beyond the Headlines

The politics of salaries

Posted: Oct 26, 2012 1:42 PM ET Last Updated: Oct 26, 2012 1:42 PM ET
It was just one of Statistics Canada's regular monthly publications but the release of its average weekly earnings report, early Thursday morning, goes a long way to explain what we witnessed a few hours later in the Nova Scotia legislature.
According to Stats Canada, the average weekly wage in Nova Scotia is now $798.92 - the second lowest in the country (only Prince Edward Islanders earn less). And that's gross pay, before deductions, so the actual take home pay is much less.
That's not a lot of money but when I tweeted those stats I received replies like this:  "Where are those people working? Can I work there?" and "Love to know where these jobs are at?"
In a province with the highest HST in the country, some of the highest gas and heating oil prices and skyrocketing power rates, you can see why many families are having a tough time making a go of it.
So, given that reality, it comes as no surprise that the first thing all three political parties did, on the first day of the fall sitting of the legislature, was to come out swinging against Nova Scotia Power.
NSP has become, arguably, the most hated company in the province. The perception is, it's run by a bunch of fat cats living the high life off the backs of hard-working Nova Scotians.  An easy, and obvious target for any politician.
While all three parties introduced measures to rein in the power company, by virtue of their majority in the legislature, the NDP motion is the only one with any real prospect of becoming law.
The centre piece of the NDP's legislation is a move to cap the amount of money from ratepayers that NSP can use to pay its senior executives' salaries and bonuses. The NDP is, of course, reacting to the political firestorm that erupted after it was revealed some NSP bosses were taking home hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation.
Capping salaries sounds good, but in reality it will have little impact on our power bills. Executive salaries are such a small part of the utility's budget that lowering them will only save customers pennies a month.
But in a province where the average weekly earnings are less than $800 a week, attacking the so-called fat cats at the power company is, at the very least, good politics.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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