When it comes to talking about making this city operate in a more cost-effective manner, people seem to fall into one of two camps. The first camp thinks the city’s role is to provide services and create good paying jobs for those who deliver those services. The second camp believes the city’s role is to ensure required services are available — period.
If you’ve been reading these columns, it should be no surprise to you that I fall into the second camp.
I certainly want everyone to be able to make a good living. However, I do not want that living to unnecessarily eat up tax dollars that could otherwise be used to provide the level of services Edmontonians need and expect.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Transit drivers perform an important function. Thousands of people rely on these men and women each day. Drivers need to be professional, punctual and courteous with a commitment to the safety of those who use our transit services. But do they need to be city employees? I don’t think so. I think there are a number of private sector transit drivers who can and do provide that level of service.
For many people, it would be sheer heresy to even consider the idea of the city owning the buses, trolleys and LRT cars, but not the drivers. But for me, I think there would be some distinct advantages to that situation.
The first would be that the private sector company would likely be more successful in providing drivers split shifts, which is a perennial sticking point with the city’s drivers. The second advantage is we could negotiate the best fee-for-service price. Though I am not sure there would be much of a savings there. The real savings come over the long term.
The cost of having a civic employee is about much more than an average hourly wage. It is about the cost of benefits and pension plans as well. Every cent that goes into one of those areas is money that cannot be spent on clearing roads, fixing potholes and all the other things we want and need. Having private sector drivers would mean that we only paid for the service being provided and nothing more.
So is what I am suggesting civic heresy or is it an idea worth considering?