The Spectator’s View: What the Sunshine List really tells us

Opinion Mar 28, 2016 by Howard Elliott Hamilton Spectator

Does Ontario's Sunshine List serve any useful purpose? A little historical context, first.

The list does not come from noble intentions. The Ontario Public Sector Disclosure Act was hatched by the Mike Harris Conservative government back in 1996. It was billed as a check against growing public payroll spending, but in truth it was an attempt to publicly shame affluent public servants and serve as an excuse for government spending cuts. As if those cuts would somehow restrict growth of the list.

It didn't work out that way. In the first year, 4,756 names were on the list. Two decades later the list covers more than 111,000 public servants. This year's list grew by more than 13,600 over the previous year. So if the disclosure act is not accomplishing the main thing it was invented for, why keep it?

One hundred thousand dollars isn't what it used to be. In the mid-90s it was more of a milestone for middle- and upper-class workers. But the $100,000 figure hasn't changed with the cost of living, while public sector salaries have continued to increase. Now, more and more previously middle-class public workers are earning $100,000-plus.

The public shaming part of this exercise doesn't interest us. So what if more police are working more overtime and making over $100,000? Firefighters, teachers and road workers? Overtime can easily push all of them over that line. Granted, some of the extreme cases — senior managers at Ontario Power Generation and senior executives at hospitals come to mind — seem designed to engender hostility and resentment. Eight-hundred thousand, a million dollars? Who is really worth that? But for most of the 111,000, we say good on you.

But there is a message and trend here that we should be worried by. It's not the individuals, however envious we might feel of some. It's that the senior ranks of the public sector continue to grow, year after year after year. Last year was bigger than the previous year.

What if there was a Sunshine List for the private sector? It would show some interesting patterns and distinct differences. Wages are increasing, but rarely more than the cost of living and often not as much. That means workers are falling further behind as costs rise around them. Dig into that list and it will show dramatically more people working part-time and in precarious jobs. And the number earning $100,000 or more? The median family — stress family — income in Hamilton last year was $82,290, just over 40-grand each if two adults are working at similar pay.

Public sector growth in Ontario has slowed somewhat, but it's not withering. Private sector growth is not dead, but it's hardly robust. There is a disconnect here which will lead to trouble. That you can bet on.

Howard Elliott

helliott@thespec.com

905-526-3348

The Spectator’s View: What the Sunshine List really tells us

What would a Sunshine List for the private sector look like?

Opinion Mar 28, 2016 by Howard Elliott Hamilton Spectator

Does Ontario's Sunshine List serve any useful purpose? A little historical context, first.

The list does not come from noble intentions. The Ontario Public Sector Disclosure Act was hatched by the Mike Harris Conservative government back in 1996. It was billed as a check against growing public payroll spending, but in truth it was an attempt to publicly shame affluent public servants and serve as an excuse for government spending cuts. As if those cuts would somehow restrict growth of the list.

It didn't work out that way. In the first year, 4,756 names were on the list. Two decades later the list covers more than 111,000 public servants. This year's list grew by more than 13,600 over the previous year. So if the disclosure act is not accomplishing the main thing it was invented for, why keep it?

One hundred thousand dollars isn't what it used to be. In the mid-90s it was more of a milestone for middle- and upper-class workers. But the $100,000 figure hasn't changed with the cost of living, while public sector salaries have continued to increase. Now, more and more previously middle-class public workers are earning $100,000-plus.

The public shaming part of this exercise doesn't interest us. So what if more police are working more overtime and making over $100,000? Firefighters, teachers and road workers? Overtime can easily push all of them over that line. Granted, some of the extreme cases — senior managers at Ontario Power Generation and senior executives at hospitals come to mind — seem designed to engender hostility and resentment. Eight-hundred thousand, a million dollars? Who is really worth that? But for most of the 111,000, we say good on you.

But there is a message and trend here that we should be worried by. It's not the individuals, however envious we might feel of some. It's that the senior ranks of the public sector continue to grow, year after year after year. Last year was bigger than the previous year.

What if there was a Sunshine List for the private sector? It would show some interesting patterns and distinct differences. Wages are increasing, but rarely more than the cost of living and often not as much. That means workers are falling further behind as costs rise around them. Dig into that list and it will show dramatically more people working part-time and in precarious jobs. And the number earning $100,000 or more? The median family — stress family — income in Hamilton last year was $82,290, just over 40-grand each if two adults are working at similar pay.

Public sector growth in Ontario has slowed somewhat, but it's not withering. Private sector growth is not dead, but it's hardly robust. There is a disconnect here which will lead to trouble. That you can bet on.

Howard Elliott

helliott@thespec.com

905-526-3348

The Spectator’s View: What the Sunshine List really tells us

What would a Sunshine List for the private sector look like?

Opinion Mar 28, 2016 by Howard Elliott Hamilton Spectator

Does Ontario's Sunshine List serve any useful purpose? A little historical context, first.

The list does not come from noble intentions. The Ontario Public Sector Disclosure Act was hatched by the Mike Harris Conservative government back in 1996. It was billed as a check against growing public payroll spending, but in truth it was an attempt to publicly shame affluent public servants and serve as an excuse for government spending cuts. As if those cuts would somehow restrict growth of the list.

It didn't work out that way. In the first year, 4,756 names were on the list. Two decades later the list covers more than 111,000 public servants. This year's list grew by more than 13,600 over the previous year. So if the disclosure act is not accomplishing the main thing it was invented for, why keep it?

One hundred thousand dollars isn't what it used to be. In the mid-90s it was more of a milestone for middle- and upper-class workers. But the $100,000 figure hasn't changed with the cost of living, while public sector salaries have continued to increase. Now, more and more previously middle-class public workers are earning $100,000-plus.

The public shaming part of this exercise doesn't interest us. So what if more police are working more overtime and making over $100,000? Firefighters, teachers and road workers? Overtime can easily push all of them over that line. Granted, some of the extreme cases — senior managers at Ontario Power Generation and senior executives at hospitals come to mind — seem designed to engender hostility and resentment. Eight-hundred thousand, a million dollars? Who is really worth that? But for most of the 111,000, we say good on you.

But there is a message and trend here that we should be worried by. It's not the individuals, however envious we might feel of some. It's that the senior ranks of the public sector continue to grow, year after year after year. Last year was bigger than the previous year.

What if there was a Sunshine List for the private sector? It would show some interesting patterns and distinct differences. Wages are increasing, but rarely more than the cost of living and often not as much. That means workers are falling further behind as costs rise around them. Dig into that list and it will show dramatically more people working part-time and in precarious jobs. And the number earning $100,000 or more? The median family — stress family — income in Hamilton last year was $82,290, just over 40-grand each if two adults are working at similar pay.

Public sector growth in Ontario has slowed somewhat, but it's not withering. Private sector growth is not dead, but it's hardly robust. There is a disconnect here which will lead to trouble. That you can bet on.

Howard Elliott

helliott@thespec.com

905-526-3348