Public servants earning over $100K grew by 39,000 last year: CTF

Observers say time has come for federal government to publish a sunshine list of top-earning public workers

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With all but two provinces publishing annual disclosures of six-figure public sector salaries, government watchers say the time has come for the federal government to follow suit.

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And information released Wednesday by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation (CTF) shows the number of federal workers who earn over $100,000 grew by over 39,000 to 114,433 in 2021 — drawing nearly $15 billion in federal wages.

The federal government, the country’s largest employer, currently has 319,601 people on its payroll.

Franco Terrazzano, federal director for the CTF, said that the time has come for the federal government to follow suit with the provinces and publish a so-called ‘sunshine list’ of public employees who earn over $100,000.

“Government sunshine lists are ‘Transparency 101,’” he said.

“It’s long past time for the federal government does so.”

All provinces, except for Quebec and Prince Edward Island, maintain some sort of program to disclose large public sector salaries.

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“We’re in a time where trust in government is very low,” said Aaron Wudrick, Director of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s Domestic Policy Program.

“If you want people to trust government, a good way is for governments to be as transparent as possible.”

Governments that hide information should expect growing skepticism among their citizens, Wudrick said — ranging from legitimate concerns over the use of tax dollars to fueling conspiracy theories in dark corners of the internet.

“There’s no real reason or rationale for them not to do it federally, other than they don’t want to,” Wudrick said.

The highest-paid public servant in Alberta is Dr. Thambirajah Balachandra, the province’s chief medical examiner, who earned $395,467 in 2021 in regular salary and non-cash benefits.

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In British Columbia, Gordon Fyfe — the CEO/CIO of the BC Investment Management Corporation — earned $2.95 Million in 2020, the top of six of his co-workers who also earn over a million dollars annually in public money, reported the Vancouver Sun.

In Ontario, the top-paid public servant is OPG (Ontario Power Generation) CEO Kenneth Hartwick, who took home $1,628,246 in 2021.

Four of Ontario’s top five highest-paid public servants earn over $1 million annually, and are all senior OPG executives.

For senior government officials, federal Governor-in-Council appointees earn between $121,550 to $195,908 for executive group (EX) managers, while deputy ministers (DM) earn between $219,300 to $315,900.

Performance awards capped between 15 to 26 per cent for EXs and 26 and 39 per cent for DMs.

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Yearly salaries for Crown Corporation CEOs range from $142,200 to $596,000 at the top of the eight-scale 2021-22 pay grid. with performance awards capped between 15 and 33 per cent.

According to the CTF, public servant ranks grew from 43,424 in 2015 to 114,433 in 2021.

The number of federal employees earning six-figure salaries grew 52 per cent in 2022, from 74,925 in 2021.

Determining average salaries for Canada’s nearly 320,000 public servants is difficult, as unionized workers are spread across 28 separate bargaining groups, some of which feature multiple collective agreements.

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RCMP members, effective April 1, 2022, start at $65,776 for police constables, to a maximum of $106,576 after 5 years.

Corporals make between $112,435 and $116,703, while Sergeants earn $123,509 to $127,204, and Staff Sergeants  $131,917 to $135,579.

Border Services (FB) Group employees under the Canada Border Services Agency don’t earn six figures until reaching the top of the FB-05 job category, reserved for investigators and superintendents.

Civil Aviation Inspectors, according to their most recent collective agreement, start at $99,984 as a CAI-01 and max out at $152,489 after five years as a CAI-05.

Documents obtained by the CTF show 278,892 federal public servants got raises in 2020, either by advancing through pay grids or via an “economic increase.”

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Government openness was a key plank in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 2015 election win — committing to delivering a “responsible, transparent fiscal plan” and a vow to “set a higher bar for openness and transparency in Ottawa.”

Most political pundits would accuse the Trudeau Liberal government — much like their predecessors — of failing in that promise.

“It’s no secret that not just this government, but several preceding governments, were not big fans of transparency,” Wudrick said.

“Regular Canadians would be surprised to know how difficult it is to get information out of government — journalists and advocates who have to deal with the access to information system are familiar with this program, and it’s been getting worse and worse over the past decade.”

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