Bill Gates was on the phone. I knew it was Bill because he always calls me collect. (How do you think the president of Microsoft got to be worth 18 billion?) Bill sounded frantic.
“Frank, is that you? What are you doing up there?” (‘Up there’ always meant Canada to Bill).
“What do you mean? What am I doing?”
“I just read in Frank Magazine that Bob Rae, the former premier of your little province will rake in five million dollars as a reward for living to be 75! And he’s only 48. Tell me it’s not true!”
“It’s true—it’s his pension.”
“You give pensions out at 48!” asked the scion of modern computing.
“Politicians –yes. The rest of us –it looks like the financial mess we’re in –we may have to wait ‘til we’re 95.”
“At least I had to do ‘something’ to make 18 billion bucks! Rae’s got me beat. He gets five million bucks for doing nothing. I’m surprised that there’s not a lineup down to the U.S. border looking for politicians’ jobs.”
“That’s not all. Bob collects a $110,000 severance pay for being kicked out as premier of Ontario when he resigned. Bob and his friends have shielded it from taxes up front and in 20 years Bob’s going to net another million bucks!”
“Do the cops up there know about this.”
“Yeah—and they’re envious.”
“Isn’t this guy supposed to have been running ‘the working man’s party’?”
“Don’t tell me that all the politicians up there favour this rip-off.”
“They’re too busy loading up at the bank to object to it.”
“It says here that Rae ran up the provincial debt 50 billion in four years.”
“I’m surprised that you’re not 250 billion dollars in debt! What ever happened to the politicians who went into politics to serve the nation?”
“Well remember, Bill, I served three years as a school trustee years ago and we would have never thought of setting up a fat pension for ourselves. No way.”
“Oh, Frank, stop thumping yourself on the back. You probably never thought of it.”
“All right—all right.”
“Why would some high class Toronto law firm hire Rae in the first place—I mean after he added 50 billion to the Ontario debt? I mean this isn’t exactly the way to get ahead at Microsoft.”
“Well he’s supposed to have some close connections with China. I don’t know. Maybe they think Bob’s a communist. He sure didn’t do much for capitalism here.”
“Well he’s not much of a capitalist that’s for sure if he’s willing to work for a lousy $270,000 a year—counting his pension.”
I thought this might be a good time to approach Bill about something that had been on my mind.
“Bill, didn’t you promise to set aside 50,000 shares of Microsoft at a rock bottom price for me when you started out. And I was a little short of money at the time to exercise this option.”
“No I don’t remember that, Frank. I do remember you warning me not to drop out of university when I wanted to start Microsoft. And you said that you had never met a university dropout who ever amounted to anything.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“And then you said: ‘I wouldn’t invest a nickel in your Microsoft. I would rather pack all my money into a spitball and roll it down a mountain.’
“Yeah…you’ve got a good memory, Bill.”
“Let’s get back to Bob Rae. You told me that you were a big powerhouse at Queen’s Park and that you could get things done. Now if you don’t get rid of that outrageous politicians’ person play –that outright theft from the people of Canada of their tax dollars—I’m going to have to do something about it. I’ll be golfing with Bill Clinton this coming Thursday and if nothing has been done I’m going to recommend that we invade Canada and save your people from the politicians. Bill’s going to be shocked to find out that we’ve got a banana republic in the north of us. And when I say jump to Bill Clinton—he’s already arched in flight. Don’t let me down, again, Frank. This is your last chance.”
Bill hung up on me. I picked up the phone.
“ Metro Separate School Board? Let me speak to the chairman of the School Board. It’s an emergency! Sir, I was a trustee for the three years on your board about 25 years ago. Have you ever thought of providing a decent pension for former school trustees?”