Six new junior cabinet ministers added to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s A-team will reap an extra $53,000 in annual pay and score the perk of a car with driver.
The bonuses top up the regular $147,700 remuneration paid to backbench MPs, but a spokesman for the Privy Council Office insists taxpayers won’t be saddled with any extra costs.
“They do in fact get a car and driver, but there’s no added cost to the taxpayer because the costs are being absorbed within the departments through re-allocation,” said Greg Jack. “Departments will have to absorb the cost, however they decide to do that.”
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion suggested Harper is being hypocritical for preaching leaner government then padding his inner circle.
“The prime minister boasted last year about having a smaller cabinet which would save $48 million for Canadians, and now he is giving more prestige to some of his members,” he said. “We’ll see if these people really do have a role to play within cabinet and if they have any influence over anything.”
John Williamson, federal director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said bloating the cabinet is costly and counter-productive to cost-efficient government.
“There’s no reason at all for the federal cabinet to be so large,” he said. “One of the problems that Paul Martin had was making decisions and a large cabinet does not help with that. Not only from a taxpayers’ point of view is it wise to have a smaller executive, but in terms of decision making and responsibility, it’s better for a more efficient government.”
On the general shake-up, Dion said slapping a fresh face on cabinet won’t improve flawed government policies. He blasted the PM for trading ministers while lacking the conviction to urgently tackle climate change.
“He has embarrassed the entire country of Canada in how he has acted on the international stage with regard to the Montreal conference and the follow-up to the conference on climate change,” he said. “He is responsible for this, not the minister.”