The head of Ontario’s Crown-owned electricity utility was the highest paid public sector employee in 2011, with compensation totalling $1.8-million. But at a time when the government is preparing to usher in a new era of restraint, he was not the only executive who cracked the $1-million threshold.
The Ontario government revealed on Friday the number of public-sector workers in the province who earned more than $100,000 in 2011. The annual Sunshine List, released just days before the government tables its budget next Tuesday, takes on added significance as the province grapples with a $16-billion deficit.
The McGuinty government has been criticized by opposition members for presiding over lavish pay increases for employees of the province’s schools, hospitals, universities and Crown agencies. In an effort to curb wage costs in the public sector, the government froze the salaries of MPPs and 350,000 non-unionized public sector workers for two years.
But the freeze applied only to salaries, leaving many executives collecting fatter overall pay packets.
Ontario Power Generation chief executive officer Tom Mitchell was paid a salary of $800,000 in 2011, unchanged from the previous two years. He also received incentive pay of $1-million in 2011, bringing his total compensation to $1.8-million, $500,000 higher than in 2010.
Clifford Nordal, chief executive officer of London, Ont.-based St. Joseph’s Health Care, saw his total compensation double in 2011 to $1.4-million. He ranked as the province’s highest paid hospital head and the only one who earned a seven-figure income. However, Mr. Nordal retired in 2011 and his compensation included his retirement package.
In all, 14 hospital CEOs were paid more than $500,000 in 2011, unchanged from the previous two years. Once again, the pay packets of hospital executives attracted the most attention.
New Democrat MPP Taras Natyshak called the government’s freeze on the pay of non-unionized workers a “joke,” and reiterated his party’s call for a hard cap on CEO pay.
“The McGuinty Liberals need to get serious about skyrocketing CEO salaries,” Mr. Natyshak said on Friday.
Sharleen Stewart, head of the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 50,000 front-line hospital workers, said hospital executives have “thumbed their noses” at the government’s repeated calls for restraint.
“These CEOs need to be brought down to earth,” Ms. Stewart said. “The 1 per cent can no longer expect their lavish lifestyles to be supported by the rest of us.”
Overall, the number of employees who earned more than $100,000 jumped 10 per cent in 2011 to 78,914. The government released the Sunshine List early this year in an effort to draw attention to high earners.
Premier Dalton McGuinty has called on the province’s doctors to voluntarily agree to a two-year wage freeze. Their contract expires on March 31. Mr. McGuinty has also put the province’s public school teachers on notice that he expects them to rein in their pay and benefits.
There is at least one other member of the million-dollar club, but his name is not on the list. Former Ornge chief executive officer Chris Mazza was paid $1.4-million last year. Former leadership at the scandal-plagued air ambulance service shielded their compensation by having it paid through private, for-profit entities.
Dr. Mazza was terminated in February, and forensic auditors and the Ontario Provincial Police are investigating a series of financial transactions. It has been revealed that Dr. Mazza was paid $1.4-million in 2011 and that he borrowed $1.2-million from Ornge.
About 135 other Ornge staff, including paramedics, were included on the Sunshine List.
Health Minister Deb Matthews ordered the new management at Ornge on Friday to disclose the salaries for executives paid through the private entities. However, Ornge said in a statement that it cannot comply with this request unless employees voluntarily consent to disclose their pay.
The corporate structure set up by the former leadership prevents the names of those who earn more than $100,000 and who work at the remaining for-profit entities from appearing on the list, the statement says. “The information published in the Sunshine List is all we were legally able to publish.”