I have to admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of the whole Sunshine List concept. Released annually by the Ontario government, the document names and shames any public servant that earns in excess of $100,000 a year.
Introduced in 1996 by Mike Harris’ Conservative government under the guise of their so-called ‘Common Sense Revolution’, the Sunshine List was supposed to provide accountability on behalf of the public sector and transparency to the taxpayer.
I would argue that the only thing the Sunshine List has ever really accomplished is embarrassing those whose names are inscribed within its pages year after year. Yet, there are people who look forward to its publication.
I’m not sure why.
Knowing how much money a school teacher, doctor, police officer, or staffer down at town hall makes has absolutely no bearing on our lives. It may, however, have a bearing on theirs. Something that was, apparently, designed to increase productivity today likely has the complete opposite effect.
I, for one, wouldn’t exactly be thrilled to have my annual earnings plastered all over the place for people to see. The most recent list was published March 25, based on people’s earnings from 2021. Incredibly, 244,390 made it.
That’s a more than 5,000 per cent increase from the 4,501 people whose earnings were disclosed in the very first list 26 years ago. I think it’s pretty clear to see that the Sunshine List has gotten out of hand. Despite inflation rising by more than 66 per cent since 1996, as per the Bank of Canada, the cut-off point for those included has remained the same.
That’s more than a little bizarre when you consider that $100,000 in 1996 would be worth $166,629 today. That’s a pretty hefty difference. Inflation is the sole reason so many people now make the list.
As the cost of living goes up, so should people’s compensation. For a little more context, the average price of a home in Toronto was approximately $198,150 in 1996. Today, that average has increased to an eye-watering $1.335 million.
Twenty-six years ago, a litre of gas ran you 56 cents. It’s averaging $1.77 this week. And I probably don’t need to tell you how much basic grocery costs have increased over that time. So, with everything else on the uppity up, why has the Sunshine List remained at that $100,000 threshold?
More than 75 people from Haliburton County suffered the ignominy of having their position and earnings called into question last week. At the very least, the whole thing needs a major facelift. If we as a society deem there is a certain threshold in which we have a right to know how much we are paying our public servants, not to name and shame but to keep the sector accountable, then perhaps it would be better to produce a list without names.
Locally, it would give us some insight into how much salaries have risen. Along with that should come some form of explanation as to why costs have gone up.
Take this year, for example. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out health care salaries have risen as a result of a global pandemic, but it would be helpful to know that the only reason so many police officers made the list is due to overtime pay.
If the Ontario government is going to continue supporting the release of the Sunshine List, they need to do a better job of presenting it.