60 Town employees made the latest Sunshine List

March 31, 2016   ·   0 Comments

The Ontario government released the annual “Sunshine List” late last week. This year’s list was released just before the Easter long weekend, which seemed to keep most media outlet coverage and water cooler chatter to a minimum.

The Sunshine list became available for the first time in 1996. The Mike Harris government wanted to create a process that provided accountability and transparency. The act specifically reads “requires organizations that receive public funding from the Province of Ontario to disclose annually the names, positions, salaries and total taxable benefits of employees paid $100,000 or more in a calendar year.” More than 115,000 public service workers in Ontario made more than $100,000 according to the list. Of note, 58 of the people on the list made more than $500,000.Controversy has followed the sunshine list since its inception 20 years ago. Arguments against the list and perceived special treatment of those on the list include facts that Premier Kathleen Wynne is actually number 3600 on the list. Her salary is a robust $208,000 yet more than 3000 people made more than her in the province. Others would argue that the list is simply outdated. That is, in 1996, $100,000 was considered a princely sum by many, but as time has passed and inflation has taken its toll the Sunshine List has become a crowded club. Premier Wynne has publicly defended the $100,000 threshold. “Is $100,000 a lot of money? I think it is.” In reality, when factoring inflation, the true amount should be approximately $142,000.The number of Orangeville employees making more than $100,000 in 2015 increased significantly vs. the prior year. In 2014, 40 Orangeville employees were on the Sunshine list, while in 2015 that number increased to over 60 individuals.

According to the Sunshine website, the highest paid Orangeville employee in 2015 was former Treasurer Brian Parrot. Mr. Parrot received compensation of $182,000.

Following behind him was the newly promoted Ed Brennan, who received a 34% increase to serve as the town’s CAO with compensation of $163,000. The Orangeville Police and Fire Departments were well represented on the Sunshine list. Chief Wayne Kalinsky received $158,000, while Sgt. Douglas Fry earned $145,000. The highest paid firefighter was Michael Richardson who earned $140,335 for his efforts, while Chief Andy Macintosh made $140,128.

I approached a few people who were on the Orangeville Sunshine list for comment.

Most did not want to be quoted in the paper regarding their thoughts on having their private salaries posted for friends and neighbours to see. The general sentiment was that the town simply must pay competitive wages if they are to attract qualified individuals to positions. None argued that $100,000 is a significant amount of money. However, those approached felt it was an awkward experience. Many simply wanted to be private about their financial matters and not be considered fodder for dinner conversation. To quote one individual, “I do not want to come across as insensitive that $100,000 is not a lot of money. I just wish that the province would change the amount to accurately reflect inflation. I worked hard for my role (at work) by gaining an education and making personal sacrifices. It is embarrassing to be on display in this manner.”

Firefighter Michael Richardson was willing to share his feelings for the paper. Mr. Richardson made the point that due to staff shortages many within the fire department had to work overtime. The compensation received was not based on a 40-hour week.

Mr. Richardson passionately spoke of the personal sacrifices that firefighters have made to help keep our community safe – health risks, time away from family, etc. In addition, town council recently approved the hiring of two new firefighters which will help to reduce the overtime and bring down the overall average salaries. Although he wished his salary was not a matter of public consultation, Mr. Richardson spoke with pride about the wonderful community work the fire department does annually and his personal contributions to safety and betterment of the town.

In Dufferin County, the top wage earner was CAO Sonya Pritchard, who earned $167,769. The remaining top five within the county included Michael Giles ($132,454), Alan Selby ($131,959), Keith Palmer ($130,969), and Valerie Quarrie ($129,486).

Most of the controversy with wage earners exists at the provincial level. Specifically, three of the top five wage earners were part of the organizing committee for the 2015 Pan Am Games. Each made over $800,000. This is significant due to the temporary nature of the roles and bonus payments given as part of their compensation. Barbara Gail Anderson was compensated $862,000, while her coworkers Allen Vansen and Karen Hacker were compensated $817,000 and $804,000 respectively.

Amongst area employers, by far the biggest in terms of Sunshine List workers was the Upper Grand District School Board, which had 174 employees on the List, up from 157 last year and 145 in the list for 2013.. Again this year, the top earner was Education Director Martha Rogers, who  made about $226,300 in salary and benefits, up from about $206,000 in the previous year.

By Todd Taylor

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