Monday, December 8, 2008

Tory staffers: I don't share your pain, after all you work for a tyrant

How many tears do you suppose were shed by Tory staffers when $35 billion in Canadians' life savings were nuked by Harper?

Hundreds of Cabinet and PMO staffers to lose jobs if PM defeated
PMO and Cabinet staffers on edge, some in tears, as history unfolds.

By Abbas Rana
The Hill Times, December 8th, 2008

More than 400 political Cabinet and PMO staffers will lose their jobs next month if the Liberals, New Democrats, and Bloc Québécois defeat the Conservative government on the budget and form a historic Liberal-NDP coalition government propped up by the Bloc.

This defeat will also cost the government millions of dollars in severance and separation packages. Currently, there are about 400 staffers working for 37 Cabinet ministers and ministers of state, and another about 80 staffers working in the Prime Minister's Office.

Cabinet and PMO staffers, or exempt ministerial staffers, serve on the Hill at the pleasure of Cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister and if the governing party loses government, the political staffers lose their jobs automatically.

According to Treasury Board guidelines, the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers decide how much separation pay a staffer will get but the ceiling is a maximum of six months' salary. The severance pay is determined at the rate of two weeks' pay for each year of service as an exempt staffer.

But there's another problem. Prior to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) Conservatives coming to power in 2006, Hill staffers were allowed to work as lobbyists and also received preferential treatment in getting jobs in the federal bureaucracy. But with the Federal Accountability Act (FAA) that came into effect early last year, exempt staffers are prohibited from working as registered lobbyists for five years and staffers don't get preferential treatment anymore. Staffers however can work for lobbying companies in positions other than being lobbyists.

Meanwhile, the Harper Tories were scheduled to face the confidence vote on Monday, Dec. 8, a date set by Mr. Harper himself but facing the prospect of a certain defeat, the Prime Minister successfully obtained the prorogation of Parliament for about two months. The Parliament now is scheduled to return on Jan. 26.

In interviews last week, current and former staffers told Hill Climbers that exempt staffers were having mixed feelings about the prospect of losing their jobs.

"I talked to several: When it looked like the vote would go ahead on Monday [Dec. 1], some of them were in tears. Once the reprieve was in [on Friday, Nov. 30] and we were able to delay the vote for a week, there was a bit more optimism. Then on Monday, they were angry and upset, I think they're back to being optimistic now [after prorogation]. They see a way out of this which I don't think they saw on Monday," said one Conservative source.

Others, however, were more blunt in their disappointment with the party leadership.

"It's hard to believe we got into this situation right after the election. Everybody is on the brink, I don't know how we're going to get out of this. The breaking point in this [situation] was taking away the subsidies [for political parties] and it was petty and totally uncalled for," said a Conservative.

Tim Powers, vice-president with Summa Strategies, in an interview last week said that before staffers accept a job offer on the Hill, they're aware of the inherent job uncertainty.

"People who accept political jobs recognize that they are not permanent. They recognize that job security is not a fixture of political life. But it doesn't mean they don't worry that is human nature," said Mr. Powers who himself worked as an exempt ministerial staffer in the Brian Mulroney era.

Mr. Powers denied that staffers are upset with Mr. Harper.

"People are rallying around the PM. Focusing their worry on working to help the PM govern."

He was also optimistic that Conservatives will win the budget vote.

"I think the budget will pass so it [job losses] won't be an issue."

And in another odd turn of events, just before the political crisis on the Hill started two weeks ago, the Prime Minister's Office was struggling to completely staff the ministerial offices and held a "job fair," or an informal networking reception for prospective and potential Cabinet staffers on the Hill.

Some Conservative sources said that the key reason for a lack of interest to work on the Hill is the five year ban that does not allow staffers to lobby the government after they leave their jobs.

"It's not that no one wanted to work for them. If it was possible, I would go back and work for them, but I'm not going to sacrifice five years afterwards. That's such an albatross around their neck that there's lots of talented people who would go in. Everyone says the same thing, I'm not going to curtail my abilities not be employed for five years afterwards. That's the overriding reason. It's shocking that they can't fill the ministerial positions. There's people looking for work, there're former ministerial staffers who aren't been hired, I don't know what went on there. I find that bizarre," said one former Conservative Hill staffer who now works in the lobbying business.

Others in anonymous emails to Hill Climbers identified different reasons.

"Simply put, the PMO treats their staff and ministerial staff poorly. Staff were moved around after the shuffle at the whim of PMO with little, if any consideration given to where they wanted to work, their skills set or their background. They think that PMO is all knowing.... However, they don't know anything about staff management. Would you give up a job in the private sector to work under those conditions? I doubt it."

Usually, the Prime Minister's Office vets only the top staffers in the ministers' offices, but this time almost all the staffers are subject to approval by the PMO.

The Hill Times


Anonymous said...

CON's job anxiety, might also explain this disturbing observation in Saturday's Globe:

During the past week, while the nation wondered if the government would fall, junior Conservative staffers were ordered to be outside 24 Sussex Dr. by 6:15 in the morning. Their job was to stand there in the dark with the temperature well below zero and wait for the PM to appear. Their instructions were to applaud, wave and sing O Canada loudly as the motorcade pulled out of the gates and drove Stephen Harper to work.

Mr. Harper, by all accounts, actually believed that the young people were there of their own accord and represented a groundswell of love and support for his actions. Staffers in the Prime Minister's Office know that he is easier to handle when being applauded and not questioned. This way, nobody has to suffer at the hands of the inconsolable bear.

Dr Mike said...

I hate to see anyone lose a job but this comes with the territory.

If the gov`t brings you in , they can take you out .

If the Harper regime goes down the drain the staffers have only him to blame.

He brought this mess onto himself & all those that work for him.

Dr Mike.

PS---Hey you staffers , have any of you seen my lost income trust money??

Better question , have any of you seen the Tax Leakage??

Anonymous said...

Why should anyone care about CON's job anxiety? They did not care about Income trust investors, those in the manufacturing, arts, environmental sectors, etc.
Conservative policy is generally horrible for everyone, with the exception of a select few ... so these people have nobody to blame but themselves for the current situation.
Hmm, maybe many wouldn't be in this situation if they had done their homework on income trusts and the CON agenda?