Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, April 11, 2011

There's Gold in Them There Government Palaces

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
April 11, 2011

The Sunshine List of high roller public servants has just been published and no doubt has all private sector workers yearning for public sector employment.

The list confirms that there are now two classes of workers---those that work in the public sector and those that work in the private sector.

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business Report, Federal public sector employees enjoy a 15.1% wage premium over their private sector counterparts. Similar premiums over the private sector are earned by Provincial and Municipal government workers.

But wages are just part of the story according to the CFIB Report. Public sector non-wage benefits such as pensions, paid vacation time, paid health and insurance benefits, etc. remain, on average, 60 per cent higher than those of equivalent private sector employees boosting the Federal employee wage/benefits premium to 23.3% over their private sector counterparts when non-wage benefits are included.

And dramatic Public sector employment growth, up 24% since 1998, combined with the salary premiums paid public sector employees, has fuelled dramatic increases in the costs of government, all banking on that seemingly bottomless pit of taxpayer cash that redirects our disposable income away from the productive segments of the economy that would contribute to growth of every citizen’s standard of living and to the country’s productivity and wealth.

Since 1998, total wages and salaries paid to general federal government employees are up 28% compared to inflation and private sector wage growth over that period.

And then there is the question of job security. While private sector wages are frozen, workers laid off and plants shuttered, and workers fall prey to the vagaries of the sputtering economy, public sector workers soldier on with iron rice bowl job security with their guaranteed salary and benefits increases that bear no resemblance to the uncertainties in the real world

When we consider the wage and benefits premiums enjoyed by public sector workers, the Ontario’s Sunshine List, the list of public sector workers making over $100,000 annually, rubs salt in the wounds of taxpayers footing the bill.

The current Sunshine List for the City of Oshawa, lists 81 workers making in excess of $100G’s, 6 in excess of $150G’s, and one, the City Manager, at $259,110.75 including his taxable benefits. There were only 71 workers making in excess of $100G’s the previous year for a high income growth factor of 14% over the previous year, an unsustainable growth of city hall high income earners that city taxpayers just cannot afford.

Computing from a city report of February 2009, there were approximately 1194 total city employees at that time stationed in the various work sites with about 550 of these at city hall. Assuming most of the highly paid workers work out of city hall, almost 15% of city hall workers would be in the $100,000+ salary levels. This is a proportion of top earners not to be found in any corporate head office in the country.

In comparing salary growths for 2009 to 2010, the City Manager went from $251,526 to $259,110, a $8435 (3.3%) increase, Commissioners went from $168,192 to $181,978, a $13785 (8.2%) increase, the Auditor General went from $163,589 to $169,842, a $6253 (3.8%) increase, the City Solicitor went from $140,883 to $152,415, a $11,532 (8.2%) increase, and the City Clerk/Sr. Director Level went from $127,822 to $136,408, a $8553 (6.7%) increase....and all this without any market-place bottom-line performance criteria.

These one year pay increases are clearly unconscionable during yearly inflationary times of 1.3% (2009) and 2.4% (2010) but do indicate how “outrageous greedy civil servants can be. While you’re hoping to keep your job, they are grabbing pay increases of these mind-blowing magnitudes.

Actual wage 2010 increases by city senior bureaucrats quoted above ranged from 3.3% to 3.8% to 6.7% to 8.2% to accompany the 2010 inflation rate of 2.3%. Even the last term of council increased city taxes by 13% while inflation hovered about 3% over the term. Government costs are increasing far faster than citizen’s pay increases.

As an example of escalating salaries, if we compound the city manager’s salary into the future at the 3.3% increase he had last year, his 2010 $259,110 salary would compound exponentially to $267,660 in 2011, to $276,493 in 2012, to $285,617 in 2013, to $295.043 in 2014 at the end of this council term, to $304779 in 2015, to $314,837 in 2016, to $325,226 in 2017, to $335,959 in 2018, to $347,045 in 2019, to $358,498 in 2020, to $370,328 in 2021, to $382,549 in 2022 a mere 10 years into the future. These kinds of increases will bankrupt our citizens! Just how much can we afford? City officials need some restraint...and some common sense!

All this while Provincial Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has recently announced Ontario Welfare rates for a single person will rise 1% ($5.92) from $592 to $597.92 monthly, while a single mother raising a child will get an additional $10.14 monthly.

Shame! The single welfare mother with a child will get a measly extra $121.68 a year while some city employees will get a yearly salary increase of $13785.

Reminds me of my youth when my welfare family of 5 lived in one room in downtown Toronto.

The growing disparity between the rich and poor is highlighted by the obscene raises taken by senior city bureaucrats and this disparity is raising alarms by widely divergent voices from Chinese President Hu Jintao to British Prime Minister David Cameron to IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

In 2007, Canada's highest paid 100 CEOs pocketed the average Canadian's annual pay of $40237 by 9:04 a.m. on January 2, the first day of work in the new year.

Income inequality has emerged as a major social and economic issue in Canada and elsewhere, writes Canadian author and political commentator Frances Russell. No longer is it the sole concern of the left. A working paper by the International Monetary Fund states that if income inequality remains unaddressed, the revolutions taking place in the Middle East could possibly spread elsewhere.

It’s now time for those city politicians who got elected based on tax restraint to start pegging staff salary increases to performance and to some semblance of reality reflected in the private sector.

Thoughts from the Federal Campaign Trail

Got a Colin Carrie election flyer Wednesday inscribed with the apparent personally handwritten message, “Sorry to have missed you---Colin.” Only perplexing thing about this was it was delivered with my regular mail by the postman. Leaves me wondering whether the postman is campaigning on behalf of Carrie on his rounds----or is this a cunning and dishonest deception by the Carrie Campaign?

We do know Harper’s main message in seeking a majority government is to decry the potential for an “unstable” and “dangerous” coalition government, the same coalition he worked to form to unseat the Martin Government in 2004.

Harper fails to mention that it was a Lester Pearson Minority Government that brought us the Canada Pension Act, the National Health Act, the Auto Pact, and the National Flag---proof in the pudding that minorities have been good for Canada.

Did you unknowingly donate to some Municipal Election Campaigns?

The municipal candidate’s campaign financial forms are now on the city website. They disclose that Colin Carrie donated $750 to Mayor John Henry’s campaign and $200 to each of Roger Bouma, Bruce Wood, John Neal, and Tito Dante Marimpietri.

The real question is whether Carrie unethically and dishonestly used his parliamentary expense accounts, and thus your tax dollars, to donate to these campaigns.

This is only a part of his undue influence however. There are so far only two Carrie signs in my neighbourhood both arriving in the first days of the election. During the municipal election, one had a Henry sign and one had a Bruce Wood sign, that neighbourhood resident probably turning down Henry’s sign as he is a close neighbour of mine.

The indications grow stronger with the Federal Election that Carrie used his campaign team, his sign locations, his telephone bank, and probably his parliamentary expense allowance to promote conservative candidates at city hall, an undue influence usually avoided like the plague by most senior government politicians...but perhaps part of Stephen Harper’s agenda to gain control of politics across the country right down to the municipal election.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

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