06/07/2012 05:07 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 05:12 EDT

If Rob Ford Wants to Find the Gravy, He Should Follow Scott Walker's Recipe

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker inherited a $30 billion debt in 2010 and has since reduced it to a $150 surplus. If Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is really looking to cut back on his city's debt, he should take out a page from Walker's book and cut the bonuses that city managers receive for simply turning up for work.

Before Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's startling win against the union-inspired attempt to have him "recalled" and replaced by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Garrett, New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote: "It will be a vote against any special interest that seeks to preserve exorbitant middle-class benefits at the expense of the public good."

And that's exactly what happened when, to the surprise of the liberal left, Wisconsin voters supported Walker's view that unions should concentrate on wages and contracts, and not get involved in politics or extra benefits.

What happened in Wisconsin will now likely spread to other states where union arrogance and power threaten America's bid to reduce spending and control debt. It also has a certain application to Toronto when it comes to bonuses for city managers.

Unlike Wisconsin, where Walker inherited a $30 billion debt in 2010 and has since reduced it to a $150 surplus, Toronto has a $4.5 billion debt that Mayor Rob Ford is trying to harness.

By taking a page from Gov. Walker's book, Toronto could consider cutting, trimming or reducing the exorbitant pay that city managers get, as well as ending the practice of bonuses to these guys, even when they flummox or fail at their jobs.

More than anyone in the media, the Sun's Sue-Ann Levy has been relentless in exposing waste and mismanagement at city hall. Recently, she has targeted salaries and bonuses (not to mention other self-awarded benefits) that frustrate citizens who feel helpless when those we elect pander to those who loot the till.

Citizen unrest is one reason Rob Ford was elected mayor, despite the opposition of all those who benefit from taxpayers' money that's been diverted to them.

Levy reports that city hall's proposed "merit pay" is aimed at 3,807 city managers who already are paid more than most of them could earn in the private sector.

Apparently, it's proposed that all managers get a three per cent bonus to make up for bonuses being cancelled in 2010 and 2011. Starting next year, those "who meet expectations" get a 2.5 per cent bonus, and those who exceed expectations get five per cent. Does that mean those who under-performed get fired? Not bloody likely.

As Sue-Ann point outs, the salary these "managers" get are roughly 11 per cent higher than those doing similar jobs in the private sector.

Whatever happened to the view that getting a salary implies doing your job?

Some salaries range from $115,000 to $155,000 to $210,000; $330,000 for City Manager Joe Pennachetti.

Are any of these guys likely to quit if they don't get a bonus? Do pigs fly?

How can a bonus be justified for a manager whose project exceeds his budget by over $4 million and is 18 months behind schedule? Or for a manager whose budget for a project is 100 per cent higher than planned. And so it goes.

According to Levy, 90 per cent of managers get bonuses. The result: "Mediocrity is the rule rather than the exception."

Surely a salary should be sufficient to ensure that a person hired will do the job required. Increases in the cost of living are one thing -- bonuses are a witches' brew.

CEOs in Canada and U.S. get millions when they fail to deliver, or are fired. Governments are notorious for lavish pay-outs when it's only taxpayers' money.

Apart from the money saved simply by ending the bonus system, it would send a message of frugality to public "servants." Levy has it right: "Only at City Hall would bonuses be handed to anyone who turns up for work."