Editorial – Here comes the sun(shine)

The sun is shining, and we’re not talking about the weather. This year’s provincial Sunshine List was released by the provincial government, disclosing the salaries and taxable benefits of every provincial and municipal employee who earns over $100,000 per year. The Sunshine List was created 25 years ago by then Premier Mike Harris, in an effort to hold top civil servants accountable to the people who pay their salaries, us.

Since its creation, the list has swelled significantly. Only 4,250 people were on the list in 1996, compared to 205,605 people on the list released last week. Nearly 50,000 people joined the Sunshine List in the last year.

Most of the year-over-year growth has been from people who barely crossed that $100,000 threshold. That highlights the flaw with the Sunshine List. It is not adjusted for inflation. That $100,000 in 1996, when adjusted to 2020 numbers, has the buying power of $164,953, representing a 65 per cent increase in 25 years. If the list was adjusted for inflation, 90 per cent of the people on the current list wouldn’t meet the threshold.

Putting the flaws of the Sunshine List aside, many of the increases in 2020, especially in the health care, police, and emergency management sectors, can be explained by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first, second, and now third waves of the pandemic, these people have worked overtime on the front lines of this health care crisis. Of course, they should be compensated for their time. Should those same workers be criticized for crossing an arbitrary financial number from 25 years ago? No.

Still the Sunshine List has some value to those who live in Ontario.

Many non-emergency civil servants, municipal and provincial, still saw pay increases in 2020. This while many in the private sector received no pay increase, and instead saw business closures and significant unemployment. Few, if any, government employees were downsized, furloughed, or laid off due to the financial implications of COVID-19.

For those who are in the public service, the Sunshine List is a reminder, if nothing else, to be thankful for job security in these insecure times.

For everyone in Ontario, the list provides some accountability for the taxation paid, and the services delivered. Whether this list provides good value for the money is for you to decide.

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