Looking for Fair and Sustainable

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.


Source: National Household Survey, 2011, Working Population age 15+

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.


4 thoughts on “Looking for Fair and Sustainable

  1. Yes, that is private enterprise and not on the taxpayers’ dime. If the stock holders of a company are stupid enough to pay one single CEO $9 million a year, then his preformance better be worth the revenue and gain in the stock value. Mike I hope you are not suggesting that there should be pay equity between the public sector and the private sector? Nobody wants to pay a small town CAO $9 million a year! But that is the type of logic that got your town a $125,000 sculpture isn’t it.
    On corporate private sector compensation there has been “share holders” stock holders’ rights and protest demands for multi million dollar compensations for CEOs who do NOT perform well financially. The solution in the private sector is “fire his ass” not retirement. The CEOs that made North American business the envy of the world like Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and many others made our private enterprise society great and they are worth every dime they were compensated. Private enterprise brings innovation and a raising tide for all. Also the other pillars of our society is freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, Freedom of the Press and freedom to kick out of office an elected official once in a while. The voters of your town recently replaced some elected officials and the previous Mayor I believe.

  2. http://www.simcoe.com/news-story/4435493-town-of-innisfil-s-top-earners-make-annual-sunshine-list-/

    For Innisfil taxpayers and residents for crystal clear transparency I am listing the $ figures as published in the local newspaper for 2013 salaries for Innisfil staff including

    a) CAO Innisfil John Skorobohacz – $190,196 in 2013
    b) Deputy CAO Andrew Campbell – $155,000 in 2013
    c) Deputy CAO Jason Raynar -$149,000 in 2013
    d) Susan Downs -Librarian -$137,000 in 2013
    e) Donald Eastwood
    Director of Development -$136,000 in 2013

    Sub Total of the Above Staff = $767,196

    Innisfil Hydro Sculpture = $125,000

    Why wait for a retirement of any official at these rates???

    Your article details that the Prime Minister of Canada is compensated $327,000.

    Let your readers decide and do the math that means an Innisfil CAO is $190,196 /327,400 or 58% of a Prime Minister’s compensation. What ever your federal politics are Conservative, Liberal, NDP, or Green , an Innisfil CAO job is no way even close to the responsible of 58% of a Prime Minister. And we get to vote a Prime Minister out of office once in a while.

    PS- I have not seen a $125,000 art sculpture on Parliament Hill lately as well. Who is responsible for that?

      • Your focus on shareholders’ wealth is very myopic. That “rising tide for all” apparently went out in 2008 due to corruption and malfeasance. The perpetrators went on to new positions of power and privilege while average real incomes have been stagnating for decades. I’m suggesting we’d be better linking pay to performance in both sectors. Let’s pay public and corporate officials in relation to how well they improve all incomes in their communities. We haven’t had a tide so much as a ‘river’ that flows uphill to a special few. All very unnatural! Either a new corporate ethic will emerge, or we’ll eventually legislate one through those elected representatives. But we’ll have to establish the principle in the public sector first.

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