Tax dollars often wasted

Do you sometimes question the way governments and public institutions spend your hard-earned dollars? If so, you’re not alone.

Do you sometimes question the way governments and public institutions spend your hard-earned dollars? If so, you’re not alone.

Every day, it seems, bureaucrats and elected officials find new ways to flush our tax dollars down the toilet.

Consider, for instance, this week’s revelation that the University of Calgary is going to pay its president a pension valued at $4.75 million when he steps down next January, after nine years on the job.

Worse yet, according to Auditor General Fred Dunn, the U of C kept Harvey Weingarten’s golden parachute a secret for a remarkably long time, leaving the information off of its financial books for six years — beginning in 2002.

“It should have been reported in all those years and it wasn’t,” says Dunn. “I can tell you it was a surprise to many, many people when it was raised.”

And what does the U of C have to say for itself?

Well, for the record, the university’s board of governors calls the disclosure an unfortunate mistake.

No doubt, Weingarten is a well-educated and skilled individual, but doesn’t a pension worth $4.75 million sound like an excessive amount of compensation — especially when the money will mostly, if not completely, come from taxpayers, including students?

Could a person with the skills to preside over the U of C not be found by offering a pension worth a mere $1 million?

Similarly, consider the province’s decision to go out of country to find people to manage Alberta’s health-care system.

In case you missed it, the powers that be looked all the way to Australia to find economist Stephen Duckett to serve as president and CEO of Alberta Health Services.

Duckett has been in the news lately for suggesting the province isn’t short of nurses and noting that many tasks currently performed by nurses could be handled by other, presumably lower-paid, people. Not surprisingly, many health professionals beg to differ.

The Australian native surely is an accomplished individual, but was there no one similarly qualified available in Alberta? If not, surely that says something about our education system, which is a function of the provincial government.

Now, supposing one concedes that it’s reasonable to go out of country to fill one crucial job, how about two?

As reported recently, Alberta Health Services has recruited Alison Tonge from the United Kingdom to serve as executive vice-president, strategy and performance.

Again, do you think there was no one in Alberta, or even Canada, capable of doing the job? And do you think it’s cheaper to hire someone working in another country and bring him or her here than it would be to employ someone who already lives here? Of course not.

By law, every Canadian who earns a certain amount of money must pay income taxes. And generally, if you own some land or a house, you’ve got to pay property taxes, too. But sometimes, it sure seems pointless.

Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.