St. Marys Journal Argus editorial, by Stew Slater
Years ago, when the provincial government first started requiring the publication of the so-called “Sunshine List” of public sector employees in Ontario who earn more than $100,000 per year, it was accepted by this newspaper that readers would be interested in at least a snapshot of the list’s membership. It has become an increasingly arduous task, however, trying to weed out the pertinent information from the annual online Public Sector Disclosure Act posting.
For a few years now, the argument has been put forward every March 31 that the Sunshine List threshold should be raised to provide a more accurate picture of the identity of this province’s most highly-paid bureaucrats.
One thing’s for sure: The ballooning membership makes it difficult to accomplish an effective comparison between the Sunshine Lists from one year to another. Is the year-over-year increase from 125 to 130 employees of embattled air ambulance service ORNGE who earn over $100,000 annually due simply to normal pay scale changes, or were other nefarious factors at play?
Conversely, the list also makes it unlikely that anyone will take the time and effort necessary to discover when someone in the public service takes a pay cut (like Upper Thames River Conservation Authority General Manager Ian Wilcox, who took a pay cut between 2011 and 2012 from $120,254 to $118,181).
Then there’s the sometimes confusing manner in which the information is presented, and the fact that, from year to year, some of the hundreds of agencies which employ the list’s members are shifted from one spot to another on the Disclosure Act website. A reminder: You won’t find Perth County OPP Detachment Commander Steve Porter under the ‘O’ for Ontario Provincial Police; he’s under the ‘C’ for “Community Safety and Correctional Services.”
One surprise this year was the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA). But perhaps their new approach points a way to the future for the Sunshine List.
Instead of having their names on the Disclosure Act website, this region’s top-earning hospital administrators and healthcare specialists are listed on the HPHA website. Perusing that list was a breath of fresh air compared to slogging through the pages upon pages of Finance Ministry names and numbers.
Anyone listening in Toronto? Let’s try the HPHA approach next year. Require all the government-funded agencies to publish their own $100,000-plus earners on their own website, with a link to the government site. De-spite the ongoing increase in Sunshine List membership, people still DO want to know who’s on it, and that might be a key to making the information more accessible.