We get it, the province is in a bad place financially, and the only way the Liberal Government could be bothered to fix it is through cuts. But they don’t have to be an asshole about it.

Seems like every time this government drops a budget, they simultaneously stir up media attacks on someone who seems overpaid, to distract the easily embittered public from the real issues.

When Ball’s government dropped its hugely unpopular austerity budget in 2016, it immediately drew attention to Nalcor’s mismanagement of Muskrat Falls and the wild salary of Ed Martin, throwing him under a bus, and for what? Nothing’s changed: his replacement is still overpaid, and the project is still a mess.

But the media-manufactured Ed Martin “scandal” did what the Ball government presumably hoped it would: it took the heat off them and placed the ire on Ed Martin and Muskrat Falls, despite the reality that Martin was paid what people in Martin’s position are paid all across the country. Jeffrey Lyash of Ontario Power Generation took home roughly $1.2 million in 2016.

Cue to 2017’s budget drop, and the Ball government is at it again. The Liberal government cut 10 MILLION from MUN’s budget, and now Minister Byrne is enciting students (and local media) to turn on MUN’s administration over its mis-spending, on salaries and lavish meals meant to woo recruits.

And once again it worked. Should MUN be hosting $700 dinners, no. Do they do it every week, no. Do they have to because “other universities are doing it,” yes. Lavish university spending and salaries are the norm, and hating your university’s higher ups for it will change nothing.

What we can change, and what we should be talking about, is our government cutting funding to MUN by 10 MILLION, leaving them to contemplate tuition hikes as a consequence of the cut, not MUN wooing someone once, during a $700 meal. Or, we should at least be talking about both. But where’s all the talk this week about Ball’s dumb budget cuts?

It’s proof that we live in a culture of demonization these days. It’s easier to hate a person than understand the faults in a grander system of elitism and work towards its solution. So that’s what we do. And on media’s end, it makes for better headlines and simpler articles too. Why spend time researching if MUN operates differently than other universities, when inciting rage in the masses earns you so much social media reaction?

It’s insane what MUN’s president gets paid, but the real news piece is that MUN president Gary Kachanoski is paid what other university presidents are paid. Crazy, right? Why? Why do we allow it? Here’s what a quick Google search reveals about salaries and perks for university presidents:

McGill’s President = 587K (2009)
University of Alberta = 500K (2016)
University of Calgary = 626K (2016)
NSCAD = 221K (They average only 820 students a year!)
McMaster = 533K (2009)
University of Lethbridge = 489K (2016)
U of T = 439K
University of Guelph = 424K (2016)
York University = 463K (2016)
MUN President: 469K

Why? Well, capitalism. Those wild salaries have nothing on what CEOs of big corporations are paid, and that is precisely why university presidents are paid so handsomely: a  president’s pay package must be big enough to attract  qualified candidates away from other sectors that pay big bucks. CEOs in oil or at banks are being paid in the millions.

So the fact is, MUN had to offer president Kachanoski a wild salary because across the board, that’s what people expect to make to run a spot like MUN. It’s not right, but it’s not Kachanoski’s doing. Lob his head off, and someone else will take his place with the same pay: See the Ed Martin Incident.

If you have an issue with that, attack our elitist system, in a productive manner that enacts change, instead of fruitlessly directing rage at MUN’s president. Elitism has run wild, but we’re pointing the fingers at the people benefiting from it (Ed Martin, Kachanoski) not the system that created it. Doing that has gotten us nowhere since the dawn of capitalism in the 1400s.

Let’s remember what started the recent attention on MUN’s spending habits: our government cut 11.9 million from MUN’s operating grant, leaving them in a position to maybe have to raise tuition fees to compensate for slashed funding. How about some public ire over that, too?