Opinion – Ballooning sunshine list a slap in the face to taxpayers by Jay Goldberg

Even sunflowers need rain
Even sunflowers need rain
By Jay Goldberg
Interim Ontario Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation
While most Ontarians were barely getting by during lockdowns, the bill for Ontario top bureaucrats ballooned in 2020.
There’s still 800,000 Ontarians looking for a job. So, it must be jarring for them to see Ontario’s sunshine list, which discloses the municipal and provincial government employees making more than $100,000 per year, increased by 23 per cent in 2020. Among those high government rollers, 74 made more than $500,000 last year.
So much for being all in this together.
As Ontarians struggled to pay their Hydro bills, six top bureaucrats at Ontario Power Generation raked in more than $800,000. The highest earner was the President and CEO who brought in $1.2 million. The total bill for these six bureaucrats was nearly $6 million.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
While tens of thousands of Ontario’s children were kept home from school for months on end, the number of teachers making more than $100,000 still doubled to over 29,000.
More than a dozen hospital presidents and CEOs received half a million dollars or more.
Surely some of that money could have been used for tax relief or could have been sent to the front lines of the pandemic.
While Ontario’s government sunshine list grew, many workers outside of government lost their jobs, took pay cuts or saw their hours reduced substantially. There’s still nearly 75,000 Ontario businesses at risk of closing their doors for good, according to research from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
For those that suggest that these exorbitant government salaries may be warranted, government employees make more than 10 per cent more than their equivalent private-sector counterparts, according to the Fraser Institute.
Struggling families and businesses need relief and we can’t afford to pay more bureaucrats six-figure salaries while the province is locked down. If Ontario’s municipal and provincial governments implemented a 10 per cent across-the-board pay cut for all government employees receiving over $100,000, taxpayers would save more than $2.5 billion. Not only should Premier Doug Ford reduce government labour costs to relieve some of the burdens facing struggling taxpayers, but he’ll need to tackle this expense to pull the province out of its sea of red ink.
The provincial deficit is about $40 billion, and its debt is fast approaching the $400-billion mark. With labour costs making up half of the government’s pre-COVID-19 budget, Ford has little hope in balancing the books and paying down the debt unless he’s willing to take some air out of his government’s ballooning labour costs.
For unemployed Ontarians who saw the government sunshine list expand in 2020, the news must have felt like a harsh slap in the face.
Even if the government’s finances were in good shape, giving salary increases to government employees in the midst of an economic crisis is tone deaf. And Ontario’s finances are a mess.
It’s not fair to ask the tens of thousands of Ontarians who just lost their job or took a pay cut to pay higher taxes because government employees haven’t shared in the downturn. Governments need to address their labour costs and the first place they should start is at the top of the bureaucrat pyramid.

Jay Goldberg is the Interim Ontario Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
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