Good Day Sunshine

Much as I wish the title of this post referred to the weather it doesn’t. Spring remains as elusive in Toronto as a straight answer from our Mayor.

No, the sunshine I’m referring to is the annual “Sunshine” list released by the provincial government today. The list discloses the names, positions, and salaries of anyone in the province making over $100,000 while working for an organization which receives public funds. According to the provincial Ministry of Finance this is all done in the name of making the public sector more open and accountable to taxpayers. It also may well be one of the more useless things done in the name of taxpayers, which is saying something.

I say that the list is effectively useless for a few reasons. First off it has been in existence since 1996, and in that time the salary cut off has not changed. Now, I’m not going to sit here and try to argue that $100,000 is not a lot of money. It is, it’s more than I make, and I would imagine most people who make that much are better off than a great many.

That said if you are going to release a list every year, and violate people’s privacy should it not at least be indexed to inflation? Otherwise isn’t how many people are on it some what arbitrary? People are outraged if their taxes go up by more than inflation, or at all in some cases. Is it not at least fair to judge how those taxes are spent against the same yardstick?

Fun fact, if inflation had been factored in this year’s cut off would have been a little more than $146,000. That’s about $20,000 higher than the average salary on this year’s list. In other words, if inflation is factored in the average person on this year’s list wouldn’t be.

The list’s other obvious flaw involves math which is less complicated. It doesn’t exclude people based on overtime. If you work more than you were supposed to, and get paid more as a result you could be on the list too. Not sure how we get around paying people more when they work more, so maybe the math is complicated after all.

This is the public’s money, and being open and transparent about how it is spent is important. There are better ways to accomplish this in terms of salaries though. Want to list how many employees an organization has on the list without names? Sure. What percent of an organization’s budget goes to salaries over a certain amount? Go for it.

Using a list of hard working people as an exercise in public shaming all while accomplishing nothing? Try again, sunshine.

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