KINGSVILLE — The Ontario government has published its annual list of public service employees who make more than $100,000 a year and there are nearly 267,000 names on it, including 17 from the Town of Kingsville.
CAO John Norton tops the town’s Sunshine List with a salary of $215,353, followed by director of financial services Ryan McLeod at $157,672; Susan Hirota, director of legal, building and bylaw enforcement, at $153,760; Andrew Planke, director of infrastructure and engineering, at $148,809; and former fire chief, John Quennell, at $146,823.
Inflation is largely responsible for the exponential jump in the number of public sector employees on the provincial list and pay equity also played a role. According to Ontario government figures, the $100,000 threshold in 2021 is the equivalent to $58,796 in 1996.
When established under former premier Mike Harris’s Common Sense Revolution, there were only 4,756 names on the list.
Jeff Dutton, a Toronto employment lawyer, in an article titled The Ontario Sunshine List — A Relic of the Past, said the list has become increasing irrelevant after 27 years of rising inflation. He said the list stigmatizes public sector workers because it provides no context, no description of an individual’s job title and responsibilities and no comparison with employees in the private sector.
“This may lead to misconceptions about the public sector workforce, with an undue focus on salaries rather than the value these employees provide to society,” he wrote.
Dutton recommends adjusting the reporting threshold to $200,000, renewing the initial purpose of the list — to focus on high income earners — and providing more information about what public sector employees do to earn their salaries.
Jay Goldberg, director of the Ontario office of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation, said the Sunshine List still has value — despite inflation.
He said taxpayers have a right to know where their tax dollars are going.
“Yes, you’re going to have examples like nurses who are working overtime to get past $100,000 who certainly deserve their pay … so looking at the threshold may be reasonable, but the fact … they do disclose the exact salaries still allows us to focus on those above a certain (level),” Goldberg said.
The highest-paid public service employee in Ontario is Kenneth Hartwick, CEO of Ontario Power Generation, who made just over $1.7 million in 2022.
Locally, Norton’s $215,353 salary is middle of the pack when compared to the compensation paid to other CAOs in Essex County.
LaSalle CAO Guiseppe Milicia was paid $249,797; Leamington’s Peter Neufeld, $217,335; Tecumseh CA0, Margaret Misek Evans, $212,058; and Lakeshore’s Truper McBride, $207,053.
Kingsville Mayor Dennis Rogers said the town receives good value from the salaries it pays its top employees.
“The one thing I can tell you is that if you look at the overall staffing levels, in terms of the staff we have, and compare that to other municipalities, our staff workloads are higher. So to me, if you’re looking at value … they do a tremendous job for us,” he said.
Rogers said town management salaries have to be competitive
“You’ve got to be (in line) with what’s out there,” he said.
Norton echoed Rogers’ comments on the need for competitive salaries. He said the town has a history of losing employees to other municipalities offering higher compensation.
“I don’t think we’re out of line. Traditionally, we’ve not paid as well as some of the surrounding (municipalities) and we’ve lost good employees.
“My goal is to retain the best employees … some of these people are quite experienced in their respective fields and have specialized training and I think in the long run that pays dividends,” he said.
“Our salaries are in line and we have to make sure they stay in line with our neighbours so we’re not losing people — that we’re not training people, then they are leaving us and taking their skill elsewhere.”
The other local names on the Sunshine List are Richard Wyma, director of community and development services, at $144,547; manager of information technology Patrick Girard, $127,018; manager of engineering Tim Del Greco, $126,917; manager for public works and environmental services Shaun Martinho, $128,588; manager of human resources Jennifer Galea, $115,900; Paula Parker, town clerk, $113,046; Margaret Schroeder, deputy treasurer, $113,046; manager of recreation services, Karen Loney, $110,945; former town planner Robert Brown, $110,768; chief building official Robert Frias, $110,138; fire training and public education officer Jeff Dean, $110,022; and building inspector Michael Olewski, $106,001.