Spring is when we see the release of a new Sunshine List documenting all those in public service who receive $100,000 or more in compensation. (I just can’t bring myself to say ‘earnings’.) I’ve been urged more than once to take these people to task. Up until now, I have resisted because I don’t feel I can say what other people should be paid, although we all know what we are worth, and it also pales in comparison to what goes on in the private sector. (Average CEO pay at the top 100 Canadian firms averages $9.2 million).
It’s also not a new issue. I was conducting some personal research at the archives when I came across a newspaper article about Toronto citizens who had taken Toronto city council to court to challenge a pay raise that their representatives had awarded themselves. The offending politicians were angrily described as “salary-grabbers”. The year was 1930. Fast forward to this past year and I was a little startled by a newspaper columnist who referred to “salary pornography”. Yup, more than 80 years later we still have a problem. People are angry and concerned. Type “Ontario income inequality” into Google and you’ll get about 247,000 links.
The statistics show that incomes and wealth are migrating to a privileged few while remaining stagnant or even declining for the rest of us. We seem to have gone from a ‘caring and sharing’ society to a ‘too bad, so sad’ attitude.
This is the type of thing we’re angry about:
- Public disclosure in 2012 showed that the median Ontario hospital CEO compensation was $266,000. “Some also got generous pension top-ups of more than $100,000 a year, car allowances of up to $1,000 a month and severance packages worth more than $1 million.”
- “Total compensation for the 10 highest-paid executives at the OLG jumped 49 per cent to $3.6-million in 2012 from $2.4-million in 2010, The Globe analysis reveals. The increases consisted of bonuses paid to employees who met their performance targets”. (Globe & Mail, April 29, 2013)
- “huge salary increases were routinely paid in 2013 to executives and senior managers of the 14 Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) and 14 Local Health Integration Networks that govern community health care and health spending across Ontario … average salary of $250,700 a year, up 7 per cent from 2012 (North Simcoe Muskoka CCAC: Based in Orillia; $200,002 – predecessor paid $199,877 in 2011 … CEO of the Ontario Association of CCACs (OACCAC), was paid $319,283 in 2013, up from $313,500 in 2012”
How does this compare with our elected and appointed officials who ostensibly hold the purse strings for you? How does this compare with local municipal politicians, administrators, and you, the one who actually foots the bill? Here’s a chart of compensation for prominent federal and provincial office holders compared to ‘average’ incomes:
It looks like our overhead expenses for ‘management’ at all levels are more than a little top heavy. A lot of us would suspect that it’s unsustainable as well. Perhaps it’s time for a groundswell movement at the municipal level, like previous conservation, environmental and renewable energy initiatives, to base compensation on “ability to pay” as much as other considerations. Eventually it may inspire reform at provincial and federal levels. But the real aim is to ultimately change corporate ethics and behavior.
To begin, we have an opening with the next retirement of Innisfil’s CAO to signal a change of municipal policy regarding administrative salaries. I think it would be useful to link public salaries to some ratio of the average income of the people paying them. It would provide an incentive, at all political levels, to seek ways to increase average incomes, including reforming corporate and tax law.