It is amazing to watch how low politicians can be when it comes picking a scapegoat to assign blame, as the McGuinty Liberals have done with the recent budget.
With the provincial budget released only a week ago, one of the major planks was the freeze on civil service wages. Certainly, this sounded very good to taxpayers yearning for less taxes and more accountability. Finance Minister Dwight Duncan hopes to eliminate a good portion of the $21.3 billion deficit on the backs of government workers.
Then, within days, the Sunshine List, also known as Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act, made the names and salaries of civil servants making more than $100,000 was released making it open season.
Suddenly, taxpayers are whipped into frenzy as we learn the number of public sector workers earning more than $100,000 jumped 19 per cent for a total of 63,761, compared to 53,744 in 2008.
Headlines scream how a TTC operator made more than $165,000 or public servants earning over six figures grew by 18 per cent last year. While this makes many people’s blood boil, it is conceivable this information was released as part of an overall strategy by the Ontario government to undermine those who are paid through the public purse.
It is embarrassing to see teachers, nurses, university professors and librarians who are listed because they barely break the $100,000 mark. It is not necessary to have these people on the list. In fact, the average salary in Ontario is just over $70,000. So, if these people are long-serving senior professionals who have reached their peak earning power and carry responsibilities working on the front lines. It is so unreasonable to not include these people.
Meanwhile, the government does not turn its attention to reducing the highest paid civil servants. The former head of Ontario Hydro’s electricity utility, Jim Hankinson was paid $2.1 million. Laura Formusa, chief executive officer of Hydro One was paid $975,175 last year. Then, there is the long list of hospital CEOs who watched their salaries jump a whopping 36 per cent between 2003 and 2008. The chief executive office of Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care made $702,000.
A government appointed panel led by lawyer James Arnett called for a drop of up to 30 per cent in pay for top executives at Ontario Hydro and its affiliates. You can bet it will be a cold day in hell before the government will be adopting those measures across the board. Instead, as we saw after the wage freeze was announced, top executives will continue to get their bonuses.
The Sunshine List was created to bring attention to government salaries that were inflated and unreasonable to ensure accountability and transparency. Instead, it is a tool used to whip up public sentiment against hardworking professionals who deliver important and vital services. There is a huge difference between a nurse saving lives and some Liberal fat cat raking in big buck for a patronage appointment.
The Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act needs revamping. First, the threshold needs to be raised to the public focus is on the astronomical salaries of top executives, not frontline workers.
Next, the government should be bound to review salaries based on this report and be in a position to lower salaries determined by government bodies and boards to ensure taxpayers money is being spent responsibly when it comes to executive compensation.
Finally, it is time McGuinty is forced to stop waging this class war against hard working people in this province. Contrary to urban mythology, there are lots of people who work hard to serve the public interest in government. And, while there are a few rotten apples in the barrel, the public lashing these people get is not deserved.
Originally published: April 7, 2010