Want to be prime minister?

A Secretary of State position created to deal with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation -- why didn't we think of that? Perhaps because there's a minister who handles that job already?

Steve Mahoney's recent promotion to this new position brings him an extra $50,112 in annual salary. It also brings to 39 the number of members in the Chretien cabinet -- a 56 per cent increase in the past 10 years -- 44 per cent bigger than his first cabinet.

Chretien's 27 ministers take an extra $1.8 million a year out of taxpayers' pockets, over and above the base MP salaries. The 11 secretaries of state add another $551,232 in extra costs.

Add extra office expenses and staff to the bill -- like the phenomenal $600,000 Finance Minister John Manley spent to renovate his office recently (do we really want him managing our money???) and the total is nothing short of disgraceful.

One would think, with figures like these, anyone with a view to being the next prime minister would win in a landslide if s/he could present a convincing case for cutting back the cabinet (for starters). Viola! Suddenly we've freed up some funds to get a start on helping our struggling health care system, education, and the many areas of our social system that has been falling into disrepair.

How far should we cut? Let's see.

We're not suggesting emulating the American president. But he does govern a nation of 10 times as many people and more than 10 times the wealth -- with 15 cabinet members and six administration officials with cabinet rank. Britain has 25.

What possible need does our prime minister have for so many cabinet ministers? Perhaps it's more what the cabinet ministers need. Parliamentary pensions are calculated on an MPs average salary during the last six years in office, so a cabinet portfolio tends to put a special glow on an MP's golden years.