The $100,000 club: Who’s really making big money these days

Canada’s new upper class: firefighters, police officers, teachers

The new upper class

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Eddie Francis, the mayor of Windsor, Ont., can count the number of murders his city has seen in recent years on one hand. Windsor recorded a single homicide in 2011, after famously going more than two years without one. But the border city is making headlines for another reason, and it’s hardly a source of civic pride. The number of Windsor police and staff who took home six-figure incomes came close to doubling in 2012. In January, an arbitrator awarded the police a hefty 12 per cent pay hike over four years, retroactive to 2011. As a result, 40 per cent of the force took home more than $100,000 last year. Crime may not pay. But in Windsor, fighting it sure does.

Across the river, Detroit’s highest-paid police officer—aside from the chief—took home US$53,000 last year, and probably had a much tougher job. With a violent crime rate five times the national average, Detroit in 2012 retained—for a fourth year running—its dubious title as America’s most dangerous city. Detroit’s chief of police earned $97,697, or less than half the $205,000 pocketed by Windsor chief Albert Frederick (which was about the same as Raymond Kelly earned as the police commissioner of New York City, one of the largest and busiest police forces in the world).

Jason DeJong, president of the Windsor Police Association, sees nothing wrong with a well-paid police department. Wage gains are deserved, he says, because they create parity with the province’s other large police forces. But with crime in steady decline, and police strength and wages going the opposite direction, it could also be that too many officers are policing too little crime in Windsor, and they’re being paid too much to do it.

Windsor’s police aren’t the only city workers earning big money, and the situation in the Ontario city is hardly unique. Civil servants in Europe and the United States have seen their pay slashed and jobs eliminated in recent years, but in Canada, government payrolls continue to grow, far outpacing inflation and their private sector equivalents.

In the past three years alone, the total number of provincially paid public sector workers earning six-figure incomes jumped a staggering 39 per cent in Ontario and 32 per cent in British Columbia—the two provinces that release so-called “sunshine lists” detailing the earnings of the highest-paid public sector workers. That number is inevitably growing as the years go by, and it’s true, of course, that a six-figure income is not the milestone it was 15 years ago. Nevertheless, hefty raises and generous pensions and benefits have public sector workers earning, on average, 12 per cent more than their private sector counterparts nationally, according to new research by the Fraser Institute. Canadians working in the private sector are not seeing their incomes keep pace. By some measures, their wages have fallen 30 per cent. The result is an unprecedented shift among those who earn the most money in Canada, where the average income is $38,000, and a $100,000 income puts you in the richest six per cent of the population.

With an average income of $83,500, schoolteachers in Ontario now earn the same as the average lawyer in that province, according to the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Canada’s teachers are the best-paid in the world after only Germany’s. As Ontario’s sunshine list shows, it’s not uncommon for teachers to make more than $100,000 (88 in Hamilton alone in 2012, up from 21 the year before). And while lawyers have to fund their own retirement, teachers in Ontario have one of the country’s richest pension plans. It pays 70 per cent of their top earnings, and some begin claiming it as young as 53.

In B.C. last year, police out-earned engineers, whose 2012 median income was $87,500, according to the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of B.C. The median income for a police officer in Abbotsford was $107,000. Province-wide, the median income for municipal police officers was roughly $95,000.

In Canada, the good life no longer belongs only to those who graduated from competitive professional programs, or built their own businesses, or came into family money. It now belongs to those who take stable and well-protected government jobs. But, as in Europe, where bloated public sector payrolls have brought down governments, in Canada, too, these trends are coming home to roost.

Francis, the Windsor mayor, is a lawyer whose Lebanese parents opened one of Ontario’s first pita-bread factories after immigrating to the city in the early ’70s. He had a tough time swallowing the police raise, but it’s a looming firefighter raise that’s keeping the three-term mayor “awake at night.” Windsor’s firefighters have been without a contract for eight years, while an arbitrator decides their fate. Francis knows he’ll walk into his office one morning to be dealt a bill for several million in back pay alone. He just doesn’t know how Windsor will pay it.

Other Canadian municipalities are sinking under unmanageable new payroll obligations. Firefighters in cash-strapped Saint John, N.B., recently received a 12 per cent pay hike. Last month, firefighters in tiny Scugog, Ont., were awarded a 27 per cent pay hike, making them better paid than firefighters in Toronto.

Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images

Since police, firefighters and paramedics—so-called essential workers—aren’t allowed to strike, the task falls to an arbitrator when municipalities can’t arrive at a new agreement. By now, says Alberta labour expert Bob Barnetson, arbitration has become a reliable political trick, giving politicians an out—“someone to blame for costly pay hikes.” But police and firefighters in Windsor won’t even sit down at the bargaining table anymore, says Francis: their unions know an arbitrator will award a far more generous settlement than council.

Windsor, the epicentre of Ontario’s manufacturing crisis, had presented the arbitrator evidence showing a decline in local property values, high unemployment and poor fiscal health—all of it affecting the city’s ability to shoulder a costly police raise. But “the most important of all the governing criteria,” the arbitrator ruled, was giving local police what cops in Toronto and Ottawa were making. Whether Windsor could actually foot the bill was irrelevant.

This reasoning ensures an unending cycle of wage increases. A few years ago, Saskatoon’s firefighters were given an 18 per cent raise. They got the raise because Regina’s firefighters were making 12 per cent more. On that basis, an arbitrator awarded firefighters in nearby Moose Jaw a 17 per cent raise. By then, firefighters in Regina had become the provincial paupers. So last September, an arbitrator bumped up their pay by 14 per cent.

Firefighters in Leduc, Alta., recently won a 15 per cent wage increase. There, a first-class firefighter with three years’ experience now earns $92,303 per year. Meanwhile, in Ontario, 24 of Owen Sound’s 29 firefighters earned more than $100,000 last year. So did 53 of Belleville, Ont.’s 62 firefighters.

Labour experts such as the University of Western Ontario’s Michael Lynk says municipalities “have choices,” including hiking property taxes to offset growing wage bills. Indeed, Scugog Mayor Chuck Mercier is being forced to raise taxes by two per cent to cover the firefighters’ raise. The town’s median income, meanwhile, is less than half what firefighters now earn. Mercier says he doesn’t have a choice. Services can’t be cut any further. The town was faulted in a recent civil case. Its roads, the court ruled, aren’t up to standard.

For the past three decades, organized labour has actually been in retreat. In Canada’s private sector, the percentage of workers in labour unions has dropped to just 15.9 per cent, from 33 per cent in the ’80s. In the U.S., it’s down to 6.6 per cent. But public sector unions have never been bigger or stronger, particularly in Canada. Union density among Canadian public sector workers has soared to more than 75 per cent, from just 12 per cent in 1960.

Their power is rising in step with membership. With 618,000 members and an annual budget topping $169 million, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has the ability to shut down major Canadian cities. David Miller and Sam Sullivan, the former mayors of Toronto and Vancouver, were both chased from office after being blamed for crippling municipal strikes.

The strength of public sector unions has clearly helped fuel outsized wage gains. In Hamilton in the last decade, wage increases for unionized emergency workers have almost doubled those for non-union city staff, increasing by 38 per cent, versus 21.9 per cent for non-union workers. Incomes in the unionized public sector have grown so quickly, they can no longer be considered “remotely middle-class,” says Wilfrid Laurier economist David Johnson. Consider teachers. By the time an Ontario teacher hits his mid-30s, he is nearing the 90th percentile for wages, says Johnson—roughly $91,000 per year.

Even the most cursory analysis of B.C.’s recently released data on government employees earning more than $75,000 illustrates the growth both in incomes and the size of the government workforce. Four years ago, Abbotsford listed 69 employees (including police and school officials) with incomes topping $100,000. The number has since grown to 306. Some city workers have also seen huge pay hikes in that period. In 2008, Abbotsford’s chief constable, Bob Rich, earned $156,000. Last year, he took home $206,000.

At this point, landing one of these jobs is “like winning a lottery,” says Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute. The role of government, he adds, is providing services, not comfortable jobs with high pay. The gap between public and private sector wages may be even higher than the 12 per cent cited by the institute. When pensions are considered, it could be 20 per cent, says Bill Robson, president and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute. Government workers, he adds, are accumulating “eye-popping wealth” through pension plans alone.

CUPE’s president, Paul Moist, argues those figures are flawed and don’t consider actual wages in similar occupations. Moist says there is only a small gap “largely based on more equitable pay for women working in the public sector.” Other critics note that the real problem is a failure of private sector wages to keep pace.

Still, what’s undeniable is the terrific strain now being put on public finances. From 2000 to 2010, Alberta’s public sector wage bill grew by 119 per cent, according to a recent study by the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. And it accounted for 95 per cent of the increase in provincial revenues. In Ontario, which is more indebted than even California, more than half of government’s costs now go to incomes and benefits.

The view of many labour experts that taxpayers can cover any budget shortfalls is muting the urgency of the problem. Across the country, payroll and pension obligations are set to continue rising at a stunning clip. The unfunded liability of the federal public service pension plan alone is slated to hit $300 billion this budget year.

Eventually, something will have to give: either it’s the relentless demands of government workers, or the solvency of many Canadian jurisdictions.


The $100,000 club: Who’s really making big money these days

  1. Public sector unions will bankrupt this country unless something is done to correct this. The salaries are only a part of it – have you had a look at the pensions?
    I actually see this as an issue the left should be addressing. Our current labour laws guarantee a large tranfer of wealth from the relatively poor (everyone who is not in a public sector union) to the relatively rich (hello members of public sector unions). I am not sure why the NDP would support such a framework (other than the obvious reason that unions give them a lot of money).

    • Although I’m not endorsing such strong arm tactics, Wisconsin Republican governor Scott Walker fought a bitter 2012 referendum/recall based on the stance he took against collective bargaining and cutbacks in pensions and health benefits of public sector employees, on the well established premise that to not do so would have eventually bankrupted the state. He won.

      • I’m endorsing whatever it takes to end the thuggery, the public union thugs have been destroying this country for far too long, provinces are in debt up to their eyeballs, Ontario is at $12 billion as I write this..

        Walker also had big brass balls behind him ( David Koch)

        In Canada we have little girls dressed up in man suits, big difference.

        • yes let’s blame teachers, police officers, firefighters, nurses, etc. Nothing to do with EHealth, Ornge, gas plant cancellations, outrageous green policies that pay 10 times the market value. Let’s not blame the big banks/lenders/corporations that caused the 2008 meltdown. SO MUCH EASIER to blame the working stiff !!

          • I agree that these harmful out of control banks and the super rich are at fault for the poor performance of our economy. However, that being true does not mean that police, firefighters and public sector managers are not making far too much money paid for by our taxes. Imagine what that money could go towards if they were making an average wage? We could be completely overhauling cities, building modern transit, and employing far more people to do it, thus decreasing our unemployment and boosting the economy.
            We should find solutions to the larger scale problem of our economy being hijacked by the international elite, but that task is a lot more challenging. We need to start somewhere. However, none of the political parties currently are going to take on the issue seriously I don’t think.

          • The problem is that the public sector is NOT working stiff… they are now becoming the upper class, in the top echelon! So we have corrupt government spending, evil corporations and big banks, and add to that the large number of upper class paid public sector workers. Between all of you, you are draining the life out of the general public. They are paying for all your dollars. We will be equal opportunity and blame ALL of you. Please recuse yourself and stop this. Don’t point the fingers the other way and say that they are to blame.

            Signed… all the real working stiffs!

    • You too would have a solid pension if you paid 25% of your compensation into a pension plan each week. The Canadians pensions are well funded and are the model which we should be using on a go forward basis for ALL Canadians.

      Your post, mike, shows either willful deceit or gross ignorance.

      • Umm, I work in the public sector and I have a dynamite pension. I don’t pay anything close to 25% of my compensation into it. The reason they are “well funded” is that the government takes money from everyone else and puts it into my pension plan. I tend to think this is a terrible burden on those less fortunate than me, as my colleagues and I also make very good salaries. So I think people on the left should be speaking out against this. But it seems to be a blind spot for some reason (cough – unions buying off the NDP – cough).

        • Not true.
          When you take a position with a pension plan, you agree to have the employer take a portion of your compensation and pay that into the pension plan (the employer contribution) and you pay an additional amount from your taxable income. You may not think that you pay this mucch for your retirement but, even with a lower cost federal plan as an example, the employer takes 8%, you take an additional 8%, and then you also add the two CPP portions for another 9.9% combined – for a total of 25.9%. CPP makes up part of that pension.
          If you indeed do work for the public sector, you DO pay for your pension and that is why you HAVE a pension.
          The NPD is in favour of expanding CPP. They should be more vocal in also supporting DB pension plans for all Canadians based on payroll deductions.

          • Well I have my pay stub in front of me, and my CPP and pension line items together are 12% of my salary. It is true that my employer also makes a contribution, and that this technically forms part of my compensation, but it is on top of my already generous salary. And of course it is a defined benefit plan, so I am fully protected from any shortfalls in the pension plan. Do you know who isn’t fully protected? Every Canadian (or in my case Ontarian) who isn’t part of the public service – they are the ones who will have to fund any shortfall. I simply cannot fathom how this is fair, especially when I receive such a high salary and iron clad job security on top of this.

          • You’re just plain old lying. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you managed to circumvent the non-existent Disqus truth filter.

          • Huh? What am I lying about? I have the slip right in front of me.

          • You are protected by the pension plan alone – NO level of government is legally allowed to top up or guarantee any public sector pl;an (federal plan excepted thanks to the $29 billion taken from that plan in 1999).
            If you really were a public employee with a pension plan you would know that.

          • The employers portion IS part of your salary. It’s not a “gimme” or a gift. Some time ago workers gave up wage increases in exchange for the employer funding part of the pension contributions. This way, being obligated to contribute your portion and the employer contributing their portion (which is also yours), is mandatory and automatic. This 30 or so years of forced discipline, coupled with the fact that it’s a shared plan (meaning that if the retiree and his spouse die soon after retiring, the money stays in the plan to benefit those who live longer. The money doesn’t go to heirs as it would if one saved their own cash for retirement).

          • Quit your boring rant. If you’re so unhappy with what the general public will receive in pension when it comes to retirement, why don’t you quit your high paying, high pension benefit job and join those you pity. Walk the talk you moron.

          • haha you are a braindead, lazy, low iq public sector employee

        • Once in a while we get a truthful public servant like Mike2 who realizes that eventually only bad will come out of this for everyone not just the private sector.

          • Mike2 has it right. I just retired from the province. Now I feel that I have paid in and lost most of my RRSP contribution room for doing so over the years. Nevertheless if I don’t die early my plan is still better than if I had contributed to an RRSP all of these years at the max rate. In the US there are huge lawsuits re: generous plans for government workers particularly cops and firefighters. In some cases 3% per year of service and best last years factoring in overtime and cashed out sick leave into the “salary for the year”. I blame politicians for providing this level of generosity. Yes police and firefighters should be well paid and have good benefits but when you can in some case draw 90% of your salary indexed for life and getting out early that seems to rich too me. People are lined up for these jobs and I still think we can recruit the best and brightest without over the top largess. I do however think the plans should honour those that were given these benefits as part of their hiring. The future can have something different although it will take a long time to see a reduction in costs. It is the politicians that re to blame. The unions just push to get the most they can which is their job – someone has to push back. Lastly our compensation system should be able to show the true cost of hiring an individual – in terms of benefits and salary. The benefit side is always invisible.

        • Must be nice… I’m public sector and pay huge into my pension. Unfortunately you will pay these public workers especially emergency services what they are worth and stop complaining. Violent crime is down because of the work they do want to see it go back up? Don’t like to pay them out this much? Too bad so sad move to America.

          • Typical entitlement attitude of a lazy public sector worker. “Too bad so sad move to America”. Who do you think will pay your bloated salary if everybody in the private sector moved to America, genius?

        • Same situation for me Mike. The left ignores it, and while the right pays it lip service they ignore that the wealthy elite are treating our economy like their personal casino. The left is bought off by the unions, and the right is bought off by the economic elite. Nobody is speaking for the people.

      • It’s easy to put 25% of your compensation into a pension plan each week when you’re making over $100k a year. Try working with a salary of $32k/yr and putting 25% of that away. Public sector workers are just completely out of touch with reality.

        • Aww… go back to school. Maybe then you’ll earn more than $32k a year – you clearly have no brain, if you’re making that little. Sorry.

          • Hey bud. I can tell you personally I went to college and graduated in 09.I have $20,000 in school debt and was completely unable to get a job in my field due to competition for jobs. I currently have a job in a machine shop to make ends meet and am making $34000 a year roughly. I am educated, and have a decent brain as you would put it but due to circumstances am stuck. My best chance now is to do what I am going to do which is join the military attempting to get the desk job I want. It may not be in my feild but its better than what I have. Public servants do NOT need to be paid what they are. Plain and simple

    • I live in Alberta and today in the news was a story how a VP at Alberta Health Services billed $7K to the taxpayers for a trip to the Mayo Clinic to get a second opinion on her clean bill of health after having been cured of Cancer. Meanwhile nurses in Alberta are looking at another wage freeze. Everyday we are bombarded with news of extravagant expense account spending by executives in our “public’ run and funded healthcare system. You guys need to take a look at the guys who are doing little work but making big money…the guys who are running the schools, the municipalities, etc. The front lines workers are doing essential services. You can choose not to pay them but in things like nursing, there is global shortage.

      • sure vps and execs get the headlines but the real sucking sound of evaporating funds show when you start adding up the opp, teachers and firefighter bills. don’t lose sight of the burden of boosting all these members of our society well into and above the 75th percentile of Canadian wage earners.

      • shes part of your clan, don’t be surprised at her entitled behaviour as its wide spread right across the public sector.

        • The firefighters and other emergency first line workers that worked 24/7 to rescue stranded people during the flood in ‘my city’ are part of ‘my clan’. They put their a**es on the line and you want to pay them nothing.

          • Oh, comon. Just because people want to see public sector employees paid in-line with the private sector does not amount to wanting to pay them “nothing”.

            It’s also absurd for unionized public sector employees to hide behind emergency workers. Yes, emergency workers put their lives on the line. Teachers do not. Nurses do not. Faceless nameless communications department bureaucrats do not. Yet you want to lump them in the same group as firefighters. Ridiculous.

          • Rick, if you haven’t noticed this article and these comments are lumping everyone together……firefighters, police and all public sector employees. Nurses in Canada are paid in line with what the US nurses make. They make the same as private sector employees do there due to a global shortage. What is there a global shortage of nurses? It is not a great job. Why don’t we give every foreigner a nursing job in Canada? Because they cannot speak the language adequately to care for the citizens. What is just annoying and frustrating in everyday life can be life altering in medicine when your nurse or doctor can’t communicate adequately with you.

      • the shortage of doctors and nurses and dentist is intentionally created in order to raise their wages. Med school is very difficult to get into and requires useless things like volunteer hours in order to eliminate extra applicants. The shortage is a lie. If they trained all the applicants that were smart enough there would be no shortage.

        • Not to mention if they’d just make it easier to certify doctors from other countries, those “shortages” would evaporate over night and we’d suddenly be dealing with a shortage of cab drivers.

    • Private Sector Managers work for the benefit of the Company or Organization while Public Sector Chiefs work for the benefit of his staff. That is the problem. More Rob Fords in the Public Sector would be like winning a lottery.

    • I for one am certainly going to try my best to prevent that from happening. We obviously should help those in the private sector who are not earning decent wages to have better incomes, but the salaries of the upper spectrum of the public service are beyond reason. The majority of politicians are not going to take this on because the challenge is so large, so us ordinary people are going to have to step up and ensure that the economics of the country, and our tax dollars are going towards things that improve the lives of everyone, not simply a few super wealthy, or a privileged bureaucracy.

  2. Wow, you are basically drinking the Fraser Institute kool-aid here. Their study was fundamentally flawed and ought to be disregarded, which 10 minutes on google would have pointed out. If you want to have public services at US wage rates, then you need to be prepared to have US quality public services. If you don’t like the impact of arbitration awards, then give cops and firefighters (and, increasingly, other public servants) the right to strike and see how that goes for employers. The idea that earning $100k a year is uppity for people providing fundamentally important public services is ridiculous. Rig pigs, energy managers, construction workers and scores of others earn +$100k–is the work of a skilled trades person more important than the work of a nurse? Or a teacher?

    • I believe there are services within our society that should be identified as essential services. However, what you are advising, is that it is ok to live beyond our means, to spend more than we can afford, and to pass along the accumulated debit incurred to our grand children. The manner in which you phrase your thinking process Bob, you could easily pass for a trade union rep.

      • Before we start discussing what the front line workers are making, let’s discuss what the executives and administration are making. While we are at it, let’s talk about the expense accounts of the executives and administration staff. These front line workers take all the risks, do all the work and get little if no thanks. I am not sure why you think anyone would take these thankless, dangerous jobs if the pay wasn’t at least decent.

        • Who determines what’s “decent”?

          • Okay, let’s talk about what you do for a Job Justin and what it pays. Then let’s talk about what you want to be paid to work every holiday; life-shortening shift work; work where you were forced to encounter dangerous people on a regular basis who are going to approach you with weapons and try to hurt you; work where you are going to be exposed to dangerous chemicals and unsafe conditions that very well may end your life early. What would you think that sort of job should pay? What would you call fair and decent pay for that kind of work?

          • I am unable to say what would be fair pay for that work. This is why I’m a capitalist – because I understand the necessity of the market for determining prices. Above, you tried to make a market-oriented argument for the salaries we are disqussing – you said they had to be high in order to attract enough people. Then in your next comment you conceded that we have an excess of qualified applicants for these positions, a point in total contradiction to your one before it.

          • Justin, as a business person you should understand this. You want to attract qualified, capable, competent and intelligent applicants in essential services because you want people who are capable of critical thinking and making common sense, smart decisions. We want people who could recognize when there is wastage and repetition in service. We want people who will make suggestions for innovation to actually save taxpayers money. In police officers, we want people who are educated and know the importance of negotiation and tolerance. We don’t want instances of taser incidence.
            In Canada, we have provinces like Alberta that have lots of opportunities in business. A person who is talented in sales can make $100K. Why would they ever go in to the essential services which tends to be hard, thankless work, full of hassles. We pay our essential service employees well because we want to attract superior applicants. We want an excess in applicants so we can pick and choose the best.. In the US, they don’t pay them well so they do not have an “excess of qualified applicants” for the positions. In fact, they have shortages, especially of teachers. Do you have any idea how poorly they pay teachers. Their education system is very poorly rated as a result of the fact that they can’t attract the best and the brightest to teaching. Bill Gates is very interested in this and is spending money from his foundation on trying to improve the US education system, especially that which is offered to people of color.

          • Excess QUALIFIED applicants would suggest, as Justin has said above, that the wage is too high. If wages were lowered by a slight amount, no decline in service would be seen. On the other hand, many public sector workers get paid very little, so that may be going too far to the other end of the spectrum.

          • Personnel or their salaries are not stocks… they are not perfectly liquid with one or two cent spreads on bid and ask… you can’t just push down wages for everyone with no notice when a recession hits and excess employment slack emerges…. that would create a highly uncertain and volatile situation for employees who wouldn’t know from one month to the next or one year to the next what their income would be.

          • that would create a highly uncertain and volatile situation for employees who wouldn’t know from one month to the next or one year to the next what their income would be.

            Oh, you mean the situation that everybody who’s not a government employee goes through in a recession?

          • The average Security Guard in Toronto is paid between $10.25 and $14 an hour. The majority are unarmed.

          • Yes and there are serving staff at Tim Hortons in Grande Prairie Alberta making $15.00 per hour.

          • Security is first to report at the scene for most incidents in Toronto. Why are they being paid peanuts? Most start at $11 an hour and work on-call or part-time because there are so many over-qualified applicants the employer can choose from. Many have taken Police training, but the Police hire their family members and friends first. Many Guards are more educated and fit than police here too.

          • We have security in the hospitals in Alberta. They help us cope with the psychiatric patients who become violent on the units where I work. I certainly would never demean the services they provide. I truly don’t think people realize that many of us are getting hit and bit, vomited on and smeared with feces in our jobs. We are well educated and despite the way we are treated, we act professionally and ALWAYS act to ensure that our patients receive the best care possible. In Alberta, there is a shortage of tradespeople such as power engineers and safety officers on oil field sites. Many of those jobs which involve 2 years or less of schooling start at $50.00/hr. If we expect to attract anyone decent in healthcare and other essential services, we cannot expect them to work for pittance. I am not sure why people think that those who work in the private sector should make money hand over fist and those who look after the health and welfare of our citizens should be noble and starve. Frankly, I’d prefer that our essential service employees didn’t have to take a second job at Tim Horton’s to make a decent living. I’d prefer they were wide awake and fresh when they show up to serve the public.

          • GOOGLE: Rick Rescorla

          • Where can the dedicated, educated and trained Security Guards of Toronto buy a lottery ticket for more and better hours and wages before the NDP lets non-Canadians push us further into poverty? Help us!!

          • Cost of living is significantly higher as well, and the job is much more difficult than most jobs in the public service.

    • I wonder what the breaking point is for paying cops and teachers +$100k with gold plated defined benefit pension plans, retiring at 53.

      • Greece.

      • Nurses in Alberta at the top end make around $90K, yet we have a global shortage. Why do you think that is Joe? Perhaps because it is a thankless job where you run yourself ragged cleaning up peoples poop, pee, spit, vomit, blood and trying to keep them alive while all the while they and their family yell demands at you. You work every holiday including Christmas. You work most weekends and all sorts of crazy shifts. Luckily you get to see the firefighters and police when they bring in patients because guess what? They are working the same wonky shifts you are. Sometimes these patients who are really unstable take a swing at us or try to stab us. Luckily the police are there to help us out. No worries though, Joe. Us essential services, you just make sure we don’t get uppity and try to make a decent dollar. You wouldn’t want us to be overpaid now. We should just be greatful that you guys allow us to be of service to you.

        • The average military corporal makes 50,000 dollars a year and seems to get by just fine….mind you, they are only going to the worst places on the planet to represent our country and defend the freedoms you enjoy….nothing important like what you do…BTW the only nurses who would possibly stoop to cleaning up pee and poop are ER nurses and they are hardly representative of the occupation as a whole…

          • Hah! You have no idea how many in the Canadian military use the food bank. I actually have family in the military who have served overseas so I know exactly what they make from the time they sign up until the time they retire. I also know what they sacrifice. Many are hardly making enough to get by. Certainly not enough to ever own a home in the country they live. A complete travesty, given that have devoted their lives to ensure that citizens like you, Kevin have the ‘freedoms you enjoy’. Do you honestly believe a wage of $50K per year buys a house worth $400K in Edmonton?

            Not to mention the very sad way those who have been injured in Afghanistan have been treated by those in military administration in this country. Given that I am an Albertan, it is no stretch to believe that I do vote federal Conservative. Kindly don’t embarrass yourself by giving me some ridiculous lecture on respecting the troops.

            As for cleaning up poop, pee, vomit and blood…it is the job of all nurses to deal with body fluids. So EVERY nurse on every unit in the hospital is doing it. The lucky ones in the ER are actually getting vomited on by the inebriated patients who visit there. Happy to give you an education in that area, Kevin.

            For a guy who has a baseball logo as his symbol to have the audacity to lecture anyone about people in essential services being overpaid is the outside of enough. How can you say anything about us when you idolize a bunch of overgrown boys who are multi-millionaires because they play a game well.

          • In my opinion, Bill 159 was revised by McGuinty and the Liberal Government for the benefit of the Police Department and Liberal friends. Security Guards were paid higher wages before the revision. Today, Guards are lucky to make minimum wage and get their 40 hours and they are treated like crap. Retired Police offer the training at over $3000 for a 5 week course paid directly to their Training Centres by Social Services. There are trained Guards everywhere in Toronto. The Security Companies are laughing all the way to the bank. Most of the Guards today can’t speak or write English fluently, yet somehow they pass the Ministry Test. The public is losing out big time. Most of those newbies would not know how to perform CPR and wouldn’t either way.

          • “..the only nurses who would possible stoop…etc”.

            Well I’m a nurse who is an ex-corporal in the army. Speaking for myself only – I NEVER worked as hard as a corporal on my busiest day in a military setting as I currently do as a civilian nurse on a routine day in the hospital – and I have worked in clinics, wards and the emergency/trauma centre. .
            I’ve also deployed as a nursing officer to war zones where I nursed my patients packin’ a gun and being targeted by rockets.
            I can promise you I have stooped to clean up everything you can imagine in all of those work settings. And generally worn all of them too!

        • Nurses can have it rough, no doubt, but they don’t work very long hours, just bad shifts. I know because someone I know is a nurse. Few cops are very good at their job, and the ones that are get a desk job. They put their lives on the line for us, and a lot of the other time they hang at tims. Firefighters, same deal, dangerous, but not a lot of work to make a lot of money. That is why these jobs get paid well, because there is a sense of danger, but most of the public only sees the high salary and the doing nothing, but many wouldn’t do the same job for the same pay. Complicating issue, that’s what supply and demand is for. When there are too many perfectly qualified applicants, the salaries should be lowered, and that’s all there is to it.

          • 12 hours isn’t a long shift, where nurses are run RAGGED? No “lunches”, no “breaks”, just run ragged. Same for police officers, medics and firefighters. Give your head a shake. Most cops, firefighters and paramedics are VERY VERY good at their jobs, and they WILL respond to everything from a major fire, collision, robbery, you name it, right down to the idiot who calls for an ambulance because they stubbed their toe. Yeah, I’ve had calls like that as well. I challenge ANY of you to come and “hang out” with any of the above emergency services (nurses as well), you’d be cowering in a corner sobbing by hour number 3, demanding your breaks and lunches. I challenge you.

          • Security Guards here in Toronto are sent to the most dangerous areas here. We are mostly unarmed. We keep the public safe. We are on the frontlines. We get abused daily, mostly by our employers. We are lucky to get 40 hours a week here at $11 an hour. Toronto is a sanctuary city and a non-Canadian is hired first. The NDP has ruined Toronto.

          • NDP and Liberal Government have ruined my occupation. I guess Security Guards posed a threat to Police Unions. Karma.

          • I’m sixteen years into my nursing career. I finally have a day/evening job with 8 hour shifts instead of 12 hour day/night. I also can think of many a time where I agreed to stay an extra 4 hours (16 hours of work) because we were so short staffed. Many times I’ve reached the end of a 12 hour shift and realized I haven’t peed for over 12 hours – but was so busy I hadn’t had time to take a break and have a drink so didn’t have to go! Mike, I think the nurse you know is not at all representative of the hundreds I have known over the last 1 1/2 decades.

        • quit your lying, I know a nurse and she made $150k last year, she isn’t some suit parading around but a nurse taking care of patients.

          • If your friend made $130K, then she worked one hell of a lot of overtime because a full-time nurse in Alberta at the top of the wage scale makes $94K before shift and weekend differential. Now it is true that we get paid $5.00/hr extra to work nights, which shorten people’s lives and we get a small differential to work eves and weekends. There is no way ‘the nurse you know made $130K working a regular number of hours. You don’t have to believe me. You can research this information for yourself. You can look up and see what every province pays their nurses and figure it out. You will find that some provinces are paying as much as $46.90 per hour to their top end nurses while others pay as little as $33.00 per hour to the same registered nurses with the same education and the same years of experience. Ultimately, every province in Canada pays nurses who work on the floor and the charge nurses an hourly wage.

    • A skilled trades person isn’t compensated by the taxpayer for life!!! Public sector workers don’t retire on savings like the private sector. They retire on bloated promises of compensation and benefits for life at the expense of others and many retire early and then feel no guilt at taking employment opportunities away from private sector workers who are still saving for retirement. If you earn $100,000. per year from the taxpayer you should retire on your own investments just like everyone else.

      • Wait a minute….what about those bailouts of the automakers? Those “tradespeople” were making more money in benefits and pay per hour than a nurse does and they certainly had a pension for life, all thanks to the tax payer.

        • Two wrongs don’t make a right.

    • Bob- your prejudices are on display here. (i.e.- rig pigs). The difference between the private and the public sector is one of “consent”. Those of us in the real world deal in “consensual transactions.” No one has to buy what I sell, if they feel the price is too high. Nor do they have to pay a rig manager or a construction worker $125K a year, or a lawyer or an accountant $200K. But, if that individual can provide services or skills to which the company can add value and re-sell in another consensual transaction, then that individual’s worth is wholly supported by market dynamics. Those values are negotiated, quite literally, on a daily basis. Every good or service we purchase is dictated by the values of both buyer and seller. If the tomatoes at the produce counter are even $.10 too high, they won’t sell. If the market value is below the cost of production, no one will grow them. If an employee thinks he’s worth $6k/mo, and the employer is offering $5500, then the employee gets to make the choice of stay or go, and the employer gets to risk the cost of losing the employee. One of the two may be wrong. We here in Alberta have already seen that the going price of providing the basic skill set required to work the drive-thru window is above $12-13 per hour. The bottom line is that literally everything in the private economy is freely negotiated.
      The public sector, however, merely holds a gun to the head of the taxpayer. Our right of consent is non-existent. I can choose not to buy a car on the basis that the price is too high. I can choose not to buy union-made products. I could cancel my RBC credit card. I can choose not to sell products to an oil company that retains Jean Chretien as counsel, no matter how much they’re willing to pay. I do not have that choice in dealing with the public sector. If I try and negotiate my tax rate, I literally face the prospect of having my liberty and property taken from me at gunpoint.
      The one-sided nature of public sector unionization has led to greedy public sector unions ripping off the tax payers simply because elected officials have chosen the easy way out on contracts.
      Fire chiefs need to be told to take wage reduction packages back to their memberships, or be fired. Ditto for police chiefs and school principals. Ditto on the pension issues. The Local Authorities Pension Plan currently faces a shortfall of $23,000 per enrolled member. Public sector managers need to be told to “manage” their employees into accepting a re-configured pension arrangement, or be fired.
      We can do that, or we can go broke in the not too distant future. You pick.

      • So you’ve never heard of accountants or tax lawyers? Any of whom can show you a myriad of tricks you can use to avoid paying taxes. All perfectly legal by the way. There’s no gun to your head, you’re not some doe-eyed victim of public sector unions. You sound like a lobbyist.
        It’s not a simple choice and there’s no “we” who are going to be broke. Bullshit like yours appears as regularly as the sunshine list. You build these weird, childish, pseudo-intellectual hypotheticals to get the Ford Nation’s of the world frothing at the mouth. What you either callously dismiss, or are too ignorant to realize, is that the only people who your ridiculous ideas will benefit are those who make much, much more than anyone that appears on the sunshine list.

        • I don’t and I pay for these folks. Where do you think the money to pay these wages and benefits come from?

          • You pay for services. The government pays people to provide those services. Those employees choose to have part of that pay taken in the form of pension contributions. When you pay home insurance, you are paying for the insurance. The employer is paying staff to provide the services behind the product. The employees pay some of that money into their RRSP. Do you pay for their RRSP? No, you pay for insurance.

          • The Local Authorities Pension Plan, which covers 214,000 public sector employees across Canada, has a funding gap of $23000 per employee. This figure already takes into account a nearly 50% increase in the employers portion of the pension contribution (from 10% of earnings to just under 15%) that will occur in the next 12 months. That’s a better than 2% wage hike last time I checked. The plan itself has an unfunded liability of $5 billion, or 20% of total obligations, and that’s just for the employees enrolled in the plan already. That means a $41 million liability for the taxpayers of my city, that has received absolutely zero public discussion, because our city government is too afraid of the union to bring it up.
            Sorry, anyone who tells you the plan is sound is either lying or stupid.

          • Wait a minute, Bill. You are so right about people in the private sector having skills and negotiating the compensation they get based on those skills they have but really everything comes down to supply and demand. Nurses in the US make as good or better money than those of us in Canada because medicine is big business and there is a global shortage.
            When I look at careers like like those of a firefighter, police officer or teacher, I ask myself, “would I do that job for the money they are paying?” Would you be a firefighter running into the World Trade Centre on Sept 11, 2001 for the money they pay firefighters in the US, Bill? Would you have been a police officer running into those buildings on that day? Would you be a teacher in the US for the pathetic money they pay them? Would you encourage your children to go into public service and provide these essential services for this kind of pay, Bill?

          • Are you suggesting that there are not large surplusses of qualified people applying to be firefighters, policemen, and teachers?

          • Yes, in Canada we do have citizens who want to do this job because we treat them well and pay them well.

          • Well then, if “everything comes down to supply and demand”, does the surplus of qualified applicants not indicate that we are paying too high a price?

          • Well I suppose you could certainly cut back the pay and end up in a severe shortage.
            Do you know that the beautiful city of Banff, Alberta has the highest number of ex-criminals per capital? Why is that? Because it is VERY expensive to live in and people make very little pay because of the most of the jobs are in the service industry. Ex-criminals can’t get jobs in other places so they come to Banff where they are desperate for workers.
            Yes….you can cut the wages of essential service workers and they can attract a certain kind of worker…it won’t be the cream of the crop…businesses will snap those people up….but I am sure you will get some applicants.

          • I am suggesting it… As a training officer in my field, and serving for more than 20 years, quite qualified to make that statement. Everyone thinks they can do these jobs, however, the “qualified” individuals are few and far between. Today’s work ethic shows in this conversation, its all about how much is too much to do these jobs. Everyone starts with the best of intentions in every field out there, from sports to presidents, they love the job and would do anything to get it, but compensation is expected, and a fair treatment to support your family after a large investment to become one in these fields should be afforded.

            Over a hundred years ago, my field started with 100+ hours of work, 7 day work shifts, days one week nights the next, and perhaps a Sunday off while changing crews. All for an average at the time rate of compensation. Today’s firefighters, paramedics and police officers are inundated with calls (can be more than 17000 annually), and the comparison of Engineers to Police officers is like comparing busboys to investors. I don’t know any engineers who work 4 days on, 4 days off, and then are expected to work 3 of their 4 days off to maintain a minimum staff level at the station. Don’t know any who leave their families for their night shift, kiss their children goodbye knowing the potential that every time they go to work could be the last they ever see their loved ones. Don’t know how many of you miss your child’s first steps, first words, first birthday because your protecting strangers you never met while your family grows without you, or held a child while he or she dies in your arms, yet, in BC, Engineers make as much as the police officer’s and firefighters regular rate of pay (its about deception, the 107K stats include a huge overtime addition, most of which is paid by ICBC for counterattack and traffic enforcement, or by special crimes investigations out of a contingency fund for GVD). I ask you Justin, what would you expect to be paid to give your life up for your job, and when have you been in a grievously dangerous place while performing flawlessly your assigned task?

            Are you one of the many running from, or filming the mayhem as it transpires at any average fire incident, explosion or car accident, or are you one of the few who drill and practice every day on and off the job just so you can respond knowing your going to save a life, or prepared to die trying?

            While the vast majority of people are running away from these occurrences, a certain few are running into it, off duty or on duty doesn’t matter to any professional in the firefighting, police or medical fields, our jobs don’t end when we punch the clock at the end of our shift, and I feel we arent compensated enough for this dedication, but, there are always two sides to the discussion,. Mine comes with 20 years of experience, and a vast knowledge of the field, and requirements of this job, but its not the only I have had and I know the difference of expectations in the careers mentioned in this article.

          • And you think that the construction industry is not dangerous, that at any given moment a person could die? Do you think that there are no construction workers doing shift work, doing the exact same thing (kissing their children goodnight and maybe not seeing them the next day) These are the choice we make but because it is the public purse there is no line to cross yet in the private sector its either take the job or find another with whatever it pays. The dangers are there also.

          • This country needs more engineers. They are highly qualified individuals who have to go to university to learn their profession. Why wouldn’t they all become cops instead? Oh I know, boo hoo they have to kiss their kids goodbye and miss their first steps. As to people running away from emergencies, isn’t the job of the cop on scene to keep the hordes of curious people away? Sorry, but no one feels sorry for someone doing something considered “exciting”.

            Here are canada’s five most dangerous fields:

            Fishing And Trapping
            This industry has the highest incidence of workplace fatalities with 52 per 100,000 workers.

            Mining, Quarrying And Oil Wells
            With 46.9 fatalities per 100,000 workers, this industry is the second most dangerous.

            Logging And Forestry
            The logging and forestry industry, with 33.3 workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers, rounds out the top three.

            Construction, not surprisingly can be fatal too, with 20.2 fatalities per 100,000 workers.

            Transportation and storage
            Coming in fifth as the most dangerous industry, transportation and storage has the distinction of 16.0 workplace fatalities per 100,000 workers.

          • My friend just laughed at your comment, seriously. He handles thieves, drug addicts, the mentally ill and the homeless during the night, unarmed, and he is paid $11.25 an hour. He a Security Guard in Toronto.

          • He said I forgot to mention the drunks and trespassers. He’s been with his company for 3 years and he got a 25 cent raise last year raising his wages to $11.25. There are thousands of non-Canadians waiting for his job in Toronto. The Clients don’t care about him, he is there for their insurance discount. Lucky for the public he takes his job seriously.

          • so that makes it ok to gorge at the trough?

          • Gorge at the trough? Oh, we don’t have to “gorge at the trough” but then when you are sick, there won’t be a hospital bed for you due to staffing shortages. You won’t work in the public sector for peanuts but you expect others to do so. That is called “hypocrisy”.

          • no one is asking them to pay peanuts but the extravagant salaries need to stop at all levels. Benefit packages should come in line with the average as well as bonuses for senior management and VP’s should be done away with. When everyone else is cutting back should not unions “NOT” go on strike and demand more money. And for your info. I have already seen first hand front line workers just sitting their, chatting away with each other while I have my daughter in my arms bleeding all over me after being hit by a car. Standing there where it feels like an eternity but was almost a half hour. no one in front of me in line, no other patients at the desk in front of me, just three front line workers chatting and laughing with each other behind the slotted windows. The system needs to be fixed and the people who do not want to work need to be let go to fend for another job or on the street.

          • The empoloyer contribution comes FROM your compensation, not on top of it. Yiour taxable income was adjusted to compensation for the increased employer contribution. How do you get 41 billion? The ONLY money going into the pension is your contributions and the income from investments, the city has ZERO obligation for any deficits or shortfalls. NONE.

            You need to start understanding your pension, if indeed we are to believe your story of bein in the plan at all. One would think a pension plan member would know better how their pension is funded.

          • The employer contribution is still over and above compensation. A senior clerk at city hall making $60,000 per year, will make an annual pension contribution of 10% of that into his or her pension. The city must now pay $7500 over and above that $60K salary, plus other benefits which amount to an additional 7-10%. Paid sick leave adds an additional 10%. That means that a $60K employee actually costs us a solid $80K annually.
            But, let’s look at that salary and pension. At 55 years of age, a city employee with 35 years of service can retire from a $60K job with a $36,000 per year pension, guaranteed for life, with annual increases for inflation. Assuming a life expectancy of 85, that’s the equivalent of half a million dollars in actual savings, generating 3-4% returns, and better. Nobody in the real world amasses $500K at 55 with that kind of income.
            Part of the problem is the intentional masking of the true costs of public employees. Our civic leaders aren’t often open about the wages and salaries, nor the real costs of the benefits, thus blocking our input.
            That city clerk making $60K would be earning $40-50K in the private sector. Any pension would likely be based on profit sharing plus a matching 3-5% of salary on a defined contribution plan. Certain automatic benefits at the public sector such as sick pay would be merit-based.
            As for the $41 million figure (not $41 billion), it’s simple math. Our city employs 1800, multiplied by a shortfall of $23,000 per enrolled employee, you have a liability to the City of Red Deer amounting to $41 million.

          • benefits 7-10%? On your 60k salary you are suggeting benefits cost $4200 plus? When you can buy them retail for $30?
            Like everything else, you are out by 30% or more.
            When an emplpyer determines your salary, they determine a total compansation amount. OUT of that they determine the employer compensation cost and the rest is your gross salary. If you think even the public sector gives an employee an above average salary AND then adds pension, you are sipping the koolaid.
            Dream on in your Fraser dreamworld.

          • Clothing allowances, lunch room facilities, counselling services, paid training programs, you name it. They add up quick. In the small business where I used to work, that little stuff added up to $10 per hour per employee. Even if I’m out by 50%, we’re still knockin’ on the 80 grand door.
            We haven’t yet addressed the widespread abuse that’s been well documented in he States, that we have to assume is commonplace up here as well. The common practice is to work large amounts of overtime in the last three work years, then take early retirement. By working an extra 15-20 hrs per month for three years, an employee can boost their post-work income by several thousand dollars per year. That’s not really kosher.

          • Pathetic! Clothing allowances? Really? Lunch room facilities? Really!
            Corruption in US so must here too! Really!
            Pension spiking I agree with – I always felt pensions should be based on base salary. Where I work there is no overtime so that is a moot point for us!

          • I’ve seen people like you before Bill, mean mouthing public servants to everyone around them and bitter about the contracts we negotiate. But, the funny thing is, I have never seen anyone like you say a word about those things when you’re trapped in your car, broken and bleeding, or lying on the ground gasping out your last breathes after a heart attack, or when your house is on fire. Especially if your family or friends are involved. Nope, you all look the same… that desperate fear, the panic, that’s what I see. I’ve put my hands on more dead and injured people than I care to recall, but I did so with the hope I might be able to do something for them at the worst time in their lives. All I ask in return is a good living for me and my family, some help when I’m sick or injured, and to retire with dignity after a long career I was passionate about. These are things everyone wants. The way I figure it, I make one grab in a fire, regain one life with my CPR skills, cut one person out of their car in time, and I will have earned every cent paid to me and more, in fact I already have. Bad things happen to good people, it’s just the weird way fate seems to work, and no one’s immune. You know nothing Bill, and I hope you never find out the true value of what you pay so very little for.

          • You sound like the problem. Do you know there is no “I” in team.I did not know you were a super hero doingall these deeds by yourself.

          • “These are things everyone wants. ” You said it right there.
            I went to Croatia in 93 as a reservist and was involved in the “Medak Pocket” incident. My position received shelling every day; spending many hours in a bunker barraged by the constant thumps of mortar explosions. That’s not all I did while I was there, we did a lot of other good work there, but these episodes were the most stressful. All said and done they gave me about 20 grand and a kick out the door that year. I went to university for 4 years and currently slave in the private sector IT field. Everyone makes their own choices in life, I admit I might not have made the best ones but if I did have the choice I would stop paying the damn tax in this country that feeds the public sector trough.

          • Man, don’t bother. People like him think that because they can add and multiply that they are gracing us with some sort of fundamental truth. None of it works the way Mr. Greenwood says. His are small minded principles backed by dubious anecdotes and zero data, but hey $60K plus 10% plus sick leave equals $80K for everybody all the time. The sad part is that so much of this ridiculousness appeals to so many people. It’s disheartenening to be at the mercy of these mouthbreathers.

          • Duh! $60K+$7.5K employers pension contribution+$4.8K vacation (routinely 8% and higher for public employees over 5 years in)+$6K sick leave (2 sick days per month common in public sector, non-existent in private, plus most contracts allow for accumulation of sick pay)= (drum roll please!)= $78,300 per year. If that’s not knockin’ on $80 grand then nothing is.
            Here’s the problem- City governments go to great lengths to make sure the public has little knowledge of the pay and benefits of their own employees. You would be hard pressed to find any public debate in any city council across Canada about the massive shortfall and resultant debt that falls to the taxpayers. If you can’t grasp that secretly obligating the tax paying community to pay govt. employees often 50% and more over and above what that position would pay in the private sector PLUS pay them a pension wholly discordant with their earnings, is a serious problem, I can’t help you.
            As for careers that have no real private sector counterpart, such as polic and fire, the problem is still the same- You can’t have unusually high earnings PLUS a pension that would normally be commensurate with lifetime earnings over double what we already pay those people. Life doesn’t work that way, nor should it. How can we reasonably expect to pay employees $80k per year for 30 years, and then have them retire on a guaranteed pension of nearly the same amount for another 30 years?
            Go to the Hugh Chou website and play with the numbers. If you’re 45 years old with 200K already saved for retirement, you have to put away more money per year than you are allowed to put into RRSP’s just to retire at 65 a lot more modestly than someone who worked in the tax earning industry who also earned less than you, and got to retire earlier.

            Tell me again how such a situation is tenable, fair, and sustainable.

          • Good points Bill

            Most cities that we have examined are in severe financial trouble due to skyrocketing compensation and pension costs. You are right that benefits are an additional 30% over the costs of salaries. Cities hide these and use only salary costs and not Total Compensation.


            This presentation on finance and compensation costs from the Hamilton Civic League will shock and frighten you. Unfortunately it is consistent with cities across the country,

            This is before government even have to start dealing with the huge pension costs associated with these expenses.

          • Hey man, there’s the 49th parallel. There are many, many places…mostly in the south, but not excluively where everyone thinks the way you do. Be my guest.
            You missed my point entirley, I’m not saying you miscalculated, I’m saying that you made all the numbers up, and they are entirely irrelevent to the collection of taxes and the function of government, municipal or otherwise.
            You make these grand pronouncements about “how life works”, tenability, sustainability, fairness, I first guessed lobbyist, but now I’m leaning towards AM radio drive time host.
            What the hell is the “tax earning industry”?
            Do you know when Ontario went into deficit? In 2008. Gosh I wonder what happened in 2008? And the Federal government went into deficit in 2006, do you remember any important events that happened in 2006? Neither of these events had anything to do with public sector salaries. The Alberta government went into deficit this year, was there a suddenly sharp rise in public sector salaries this year?
            You’re grinding out these neo-liberal talking points like they’re something new. Plutocrats and guys like you, I guess, have been pushing this bullshit for centuries.

          • What numbers might be made up? The pension shortfall numbers are directly from the LAPP website. While you have to put some effort into it, the public sector wage numbers can be found. I happen to know people who work at City Hall. I can find out what some job categories pay, and I know what those same jobs pay in the private sector. I know what the City offers for vacation pay, because I know City workers who take 4-6 weeks paid vacation per year, and use their sick days to cover things like coaching AA and AAA hockey, which requires time commitments that are simply not available to many private sector workers, unless they own a business.

            The “tax earning industry” is just that. It is the segment of the economy whose workers pay less into the tax pool than they take out in salaries, wages and benefits.
            And no, I’m not a lobbyist or radio host. I spent 15 years as a machinist. I have helped manage a small business and now sell industrial equipment. I own an 11 second race car, drive a pick-up truck, and I do something every day that I’ll bet you’ve never done in your life: I pay more into the system in taxes than I take out. Have done so for years.

            I’m one of the guys who pays the tab. Firefighters, cops, teachers, city workers, court clerks, MP’s, MLA’s; they all require me to get up every morning and go to work so that 40% of what I earn can come right off the top so that they can have their guaranteed pensions. Without me, their paycheques won’t clear the bank.
            My challenge: refute the numbers you claim are false.

          • wow felix, you say a lot of words but there is a lack of information in the noise, since you have no qualms of pointing out that someone is illiterate why don’t you grace us with some facts rather ad hominem

          • Seriously,

            You are seriously clueless. Actually, for most of these jobs, with the exception of teachers, there has NEVER, EVER been a shortage of qualified applicants. We have never had an issue finding either firefighters or police officers. Even at 75% of the current salaries (by today’s standards), we would still have way more applicants, and more than enough qualified to fill every single available position.

            Especially for a fireman, most of the entry requirements are physical. For police, the requirements are physical and yes emotional. However, comparatively, it is not difficult to find many fit, intelligent, hard working, brave enough individuals to fill every single position. Even 25 years ago when salaries in these positions were not that high, there were way way more applicants than positions. The reality being the qualifications are comparatively for those physically capable, but lower than most other positions. Sure for police services the competition for positions has added arguably un-needed additional qualifications but this is mainly to reduce the candidate pool.

            There have been times when teachers were hard to find … when wages were relatively 30% less. Right now, we have a backlog of 5+ years of qualified an trained teachers. 5 years!!!!!!

            Now let’s talk about engineers.

            You don’t know engineers that have ever worked 4 on/4 off … You don’t know many engineers do you.
            Why don’t you mention the ones that work 30days+ straight to meet a deadline …WITHOUT OVERTIME PAY!

            Poor firefighter who gets to go home EVERY SINGLE DAY. In my 20 + year career I have been completely away from home, often in another country for over 2 years, up to 6 weeks at a time. Poor baby has to work nights and 12 hour shifts. I work 12 hours most days and often tack on another 4 hours of conference calls to another part of the world. I would love to only work 4 days in a row then take 4 off, but if I worked 4-12 hour days in a row, it likely means I am going to work another 2 right after it. I don’t get to take the next 96 hours off. Unlike your cushy government job, I am not artificially shielded from world market forces.

            It also took me 6 years of hard work where I did not earn diddly squat.

            In many remote locations (not even that remote), volunteer firefighters fight fires!! … No such thing as a volunteer engineer (other than interns) because it is not a job you can learn in a few months. It takes years of study and then years before you are half decent at it. Lots of fit engineers could quickly train and be relatively competent fireman, or police officers ….. the reverse is not remotely true.

            Last, this is Canada. In 95% of the locations in Canada, being an officer is not a dangerous job. No doubt a bit scary at times, but truly dangerous, no. Ditto for firefighters. In fact the death rate for firefighters in Canada is really quite low. Not other that, but for both of these vocations, that danger was a choice …. it’s something these people want to do. If you are doing it just for money, then you are not the guy who should be doing the job!!! Picking a job that is dangerous then whining about that danger versus pay …. that makes you pathetic. Want to whine about danger …. let me hook you up with some of my military service buds who served in the middle east… real danger, and not with high pay.

        • I mean “we” in the sense that our civic governments will literally go broke on the backs of public pensions. Do yourself a favour and look into what has driven 4 California cities into bankruptcy. In all cases, the cause or tipping point was the inability of the tax base to support bloated pensions that got out of control largely because unions abused the pay and benefits structure to enrichen themselves at the cost of public services and the taxpayers.

          • California and Canadian pensions are not funded the same way. To compare the two shows gross ignorance or willful deceit. OTPP, OMER< HOOPP etc are ALL fully funded beyond 65 years. Comparing with California is completely false. And you know that.

          • Perhaps you should look up the definition of the word “literally”. And you don’t think that the proposition system for raising taxes in California has anything to do with their problems? I don’t think you have any understanding of how public pensions are funded in Ontario either.
            Also the point’s already been made in the article, politicians declare various public services essential forcing their unions to mediate/arbitrate (kind of like Mayor McCheese did with the TTC). Arbitrators, just like judges, work on precedence. What union (or any employee for that matter) is going to deny themselves a pay increase after its been awarded? Unions and public sector salaries are an easy target for an ignorant public already squeezed by a private sector entirely indifferent to their needs or financial situations.

        • Felix, surely you are not suggesting that payment of taxes is optional?

          • Well, if you have the money and inclination to hire the right people it is. I don’t and I don’t. I always thought that taxes were the price of civilization.

        • what taxes can an employee save? really? they can write off some rrsp’s or maybe create some dummy business account that CRA has been cracking down on, if they have kids they can claim something there, there is really nothing to write off as an employee.

      • Makes you want to stop paying taxes, eh?

        • yes, it actually does and I will be in a very short time, all done legally of course but based on principal..too much is too much.

    • I think you need to get your facts straight. Construction workers do not make 100K, no where near that. Superintedants, maybe but the average construction worker does not. It also depends whether as a construction worker you are a labor or a skilled trade. Even as a skilled trade there are huge gaps.

      If you are a unionized construction worker, there again is a different group. Gathering them all into one category is wrong.

      The public sector is getting out of hand with the tax payers purse. They will bankrupt us in the end. Are exec overpaid. Definitely but so are the public positions.

    • sorry construction workers arent paid the same as teachers, cops etc. we averaged a 1.3% raise per year over the the last 10 years..we pay our own personal pension no top ups from the union, pay for our own health insurance, dont have a steady job for life ,work in dangerous conditions (75%less firefighters or cops die per year than construction workers) so dont lump all union workers in the same boat as the public service sector, and yes nurses are under paid compared to teachers who only work 9 months a year but paid for 12.

    • Trades people are far more important to our economy than most of the bureaucratic jobs in the public service. Most of the jobs require no education or training at all. I know because I am one of those people who won the lottery and got in the PS. I now earn the same pay as a friend of mine who has a masters in engineering and designs fire safety systems for commercial buildings. Is that fair? No, it isn’t. Is it good for the economy and average Canadians? No.
      This is really an argument about equality. All workers should be on equal footing, regardless if they work in the public or private sector. Everyone should receive a decent standard of living if they work hard.

  3. If ability to pay is not considered when an arbitrator is making awards, then that would seem to be a glaring flaw in the arbitration process. For example, if a municipality is experiencing a multi-year decline in its tax base due economic factors beyond its control, then it would only seem reasonable that the pain involved should be shared by *all* residents, not just by those employed in the private sector.

    When a union achieves a pay increase in the private sector, the company’s ability to fund that increase was very much a consideration; and both management and the union involved understand this. It’s only in the surreal world of the public sector where ability to pay seems to be a total non-issue.

    Arbitration seems to be badly in need of reform.

    • Hah! The arbitrator would just look at the pay the Administrators are receiving, not to mention their expense accounts. Then they would look at the way they are mismanaging funds. You must be completely naive. Just look at the Alberta Government and Alberta Health Services. They had an accountant who spent $300K + in expenses on everything including repairs to his Mercedes and that guy did the same thing in Ontario.

    • Canada’s productivity is the worst in the world. Zero innovation comes from Canada these days.
      Mathematicians, scientists, engineers all flee down the USA – there is no point for them to stay here, why would they? To pay huge taxes to support uneducated public servants who contribute nothing?
      Canada doesn’t create, build, design, invent, engineer, manufacture, develop, produce, patent, nor innovate.

  4. I am suprised to see it’s the firefighters potential wages that keep Sir Eddie “awake at night”, and not the nightmare of him counting his own money as one of the nations best paid mayors!! Too bad Maclean’s didn’t shed any light on this!!

    • The Mayor of Brampton Ontario is Canada’s highest paid with a car and personal driver as well. She’s paid more than Ontario’s Premier.

  5. Perhaps these brave individuals (firemen) are being paid for doing a job where their average life span is age 63!! As for your argument about Detroits wages. Detroit citizens pay $3.59 for a gallon of gas, we pay $5.10, a gallon of milk is $1.99 not $ 4.79, and a case of beer is $18 not $36, which the Ontario folk pay, and so on and so on.
    Windsor firefighters have worked an extra year! Extra Year! Waiting (8 years) for their hours to be reduced to the same amount 98% of the provincial firefighters work in a year. As for the richest Mayor in the province, if he were made of wood his nose would be 2 miles long! It’s the city of Windsor that has refused to negotiated in good faith!!!! The Arbitration system stinks, especially when mayors like Eddie Francis use it to advocate there own agenda! As for your “so called” essential services comment. They sure seemed “essential” in Boston yesterday!!!!

  6. I’m not a big fan of the cherry picking Fraser Institute (how many teachers make $500K per year?) but when the average pay of firefighters and cops is higher than engineers or lawyers, people have a right to say WTF.

    • Why on earth should lawyers earn more than firefighters or cops? Find me a lawyer whose job involves regularly putting their life on the line to save the lives and property of others and there may be a point there.

      • You could drop those wages by 1/3 and there would still be no shortage of recruits willing to sign up. No need to spend 4-8 years in university/practicum before you begin to earn the real wages you need to pay off any student loans.

        There is no way these wages are subject to supply and demand.

        • Yes, I would like to know how many lawyers ran into the twin towers on 9/11 with no thought of risks to themselves.

          • None…since the police and FD ordered everyone out…How many FF’s would have stayed if they knew the towers were structurally compromised? Also, are you telling me that the only hero’s on that day were highly paid civil servants?

          • Were the 300+ firefighters from NYC who died highly paid? I doubt that. No, the firefighters and police weren’t the only ones died but they were the only ones running INTO the building to save OTHER PEOPLE’s lives; everyone else was running OUT of the building to save THEIR OWN life. Were any members of the Newyork Yankees baseball team injured that day?

          • Did you learn Geography in school? We are in Canada. We pay more for our essential services here.

          • Do you know how many Security Guards were killed in 911 and how much their family received?

          • Google: Rick Rescorla. Security Guards in Toronto are paid from $10.25 to $14.00 an hour. There is no pension waiting. Guards are replaced by non-Canadians all the time so their wage never rises.

        • And are you aware that most of the cops, firefighters, paramedics and nurses have post secondary education degrees? Most people darn near crap their pants when they find out that although I’m one of those overpaid emergency workers who also holds a masters degree? Get off your high horse.

          • Security Guards in Toronto are not uneducated, but I am speaking for the ones who are Canadian Citizens. It’s widely known if there was a disaster in Toronto, non-Canadian Security Guards would run home. Most have religious practises too, so no CPR for you. Be careful of who you place on the ACTUAL frontlines.

        • the key is supply and demand, which does not exist in the civil sector. If it did we would have a every sector being paid what they are truly worth and most of them would be taking home, teachers, cops and firefighters.

  7. Wow…this is ridiculous…no wonder were going to the poor house…these ‘hero’s’ have no shame apparently……

    • It isn’t about a lack of shame and no one who does an essential service job calls themselves a hero, Kevin. It is about the reality of what the job entails and how YOU can’t force someone to do the job. In nursing we are already seeing it. No one wants to do the job. What makes you think people don’t deserve decent money. I would be really interested in what you do for a living and what you make and how what you do is “worth” so much more than a policeman or a firefighter. How can saving a life be worth so little? Why should they “just get by?” when to you a sports ‘hero’ should get paid millions?

    • it will all come home to roost, it is and has been all over the world, Canada is littered with idiots who have been able to infiltrate our political offices with smaller cojone’s then a newborn. It will be ugly and the entitled civil servants are going to feel it the most just as they do in europe and good ol US of A.

  8. Hey Nancy….my favorite part of your article is when you speak about how comfortable my job as a police officer is. I challenge you to spend some time with us when your not busy judging us from afar; or maybe just think about this;

    Is it worth a hundred grand to attend the autopsy of a 6 year old in the morning and then go home that evening to coach my own 6 year old at hockey?

    Is it worth a hundred grand to hold someone’s hand in a car wreck and tell them they will be fine when you know they won’t be?

    How about having a crackhead spit blood in your eyes and mouth and then not being able to be with my wife for 6 months as we await the results of blood tests (this is because by law, I cannot get said crackheads test results as they are private)…is that worth a hundred grand?

    I am well compensated by taxpayers and I do appreciate it, however, I WILL NOT apologize for the wages I make as I (as well as my family) earn every penny.

    • Some of the duties you list do indeed sound as though they are deserving of higher compensation. Would you be willing to agree that some of the lighter duties of policing – like writing speeding tickets, going to court, standing watch at construction sites – be remunerated at lower rates?

      • How many times in your life have you had to worry about blood contamination because of your job? Frankly that’s worth a lot more than 100 grand to me. I’m glad that police officers are well compensated because when I need them, I want the best of the best showing up to save me and my family.

      • Justin, it doesn’t work that way. Police officers do not chose their duties for the day, the department does. Everyone takes a turn of traffic duty but I am sure at a moment’s notice they can get called to a gruesome car accident or a domestic dispute where they are confronted by a man swinging an axe at them. That is the nature of these kinds of jobs. Your day starts out looking one way and then the whole thing turns sideways.

        • Justin, I would agree that if you could simply write tickets, yes it would be worth less, however that’s not how policing works. A “simple” traffic stop for speeding can end up in something completely different a short time later. In fact, numerous officers in both Canada and the US have been murdered during the course of routine traffic duties. As for court, you have to arrest the bad guy before court comes. It is an extremely stressful experience as in the current system, it is not the accused on trial but the police investigation. Judges and lawyers are able to take hours, days and weeks to break down a decision an officer had seconds to make.
          I will say that you are correct in that there are certain positions that can be “civilianized” and done at a cheaper rate. Officers have been removed from 9-1-1 operator and dispatcher positions in several departments and administrative roles have been turned over to lower paid personnel.
          It is a very complex problem with no easy solution. I would suggest that instead of looking at cutting essential services (and yes they are essential), look at administrative costs and political waste, which is rampant everywhere (yes, even in police departments.).
          And to those who have posted that our job is a “so called essential service”, let me know if you feel that way when someone is breaking into your house!.

          • A Security Guard whose paid $10.25 an hour in Toronto risks less than you?

          • Yes, you risk less than me. You come across a b and e, you call me to go inside. When a woman calls 9-1-1 to say her husband is beating her, I go. When a 2 year old is killed by an angry parent because they cried too much, I go, not you. I appreciate that you are passionate about your job and I am sorry you are being disrespected by your employer but we do not do the same job, sorry.

    • The incidents you speak of are one a year per officer, if that, they don’t come as often as you try and make it appear, I see what cops do and it isn’t much.

      • All of the incidents I am talking about have happened to me in the past year. Sit and judge…and don’t worry, when you become a victim, I will help even you.

  9. Great, now everyone is mad at police officers, nurses, and teachers. When I need someone to save my life, care for my mom in the hospital, or teach my kid to read I want the cream of the crop, not the most incompetent person the government can get away with.

    • Can we automatically assume a correlation between high pay and ability?

      • We can certainly expect far more applications and interest with better pay. We can expect to attract people with higher levels of education, more training and more experience. These are very important jobs, people should come to them with a high level of intelligence, a good work ethic, a strong moral ethic, a lot of tolerance. All you have to look at is the news stories about corruption in police departments, etc. in the US and teacher shortages to know that you have to raise the bar on what you asking for in an applicant and what you are willing to pay for a truly excellent essential service worker.

        • All you have to look at is the news stories about corruption in police departments, etc. in the US

          How about all the stories on Canadian police & RCMP? I’m more afraid of the cops than the criminals.

        • Police corruption exists everywhere, and by world standards it’s pretty low in the US. You can expect that the next cop around the corner isn’t taking bribes to ignore your report. You can expect that he won’t be the one literally robbing you. You want to see police corruption? Try Mexico, Russia, or Brazil.

    • I bet you dont have a job or pay taxes otherwise you wouldn’t be throwing a hissy fit

  10. I worked in the private sector for over 18 years in construction. I made awesome money and worked my ass off to raise my family. My occupation only paid me what I put into it! It is no secret to those who know me I hated unions and had no use for them. So, here’s where things change, 8 yrs ago I accepted a job to be a fire fighter in small town Ontario. Signed a contract and obligated my end. It wasn’t a year an our small town decided to wipe there ass with my contract. Had I done that in my private sector world I would’ve had to go to a court/ arbitrator. And likely lost my shirt, not to mention my kids education fund. Now I see and have experienced both sides of what townships/ cities do to screw there staff! We unionized because of our mistreatment and in fine form the town froze our wages for 4.5 years. So, when people wine and complain about what the other guy makes for a living, be sure to have walked both sides of the fence. Experience goes as far as education. The above mentioned article reports all sorts of garbage, mostly false…at best, half told. Also, what the H E double hockey stick does US have to do with Canadian wages…? When the economy is rolling in the States the dollar is that much higher than ours. Stop using comparisons that are irrelevant!!
    Apparently the press has no code of ethics…or they’d attempt to right both sides, not their convoluted BS.

  11. I notice you rely on information provided by the Fraser Institute. This is almost always a mistake. have the figures and methodology been vetted by an independent credible organization?

  12. Misleading and uninformed article, sure gets the debates going and traffic to their site though…. My vote for worst researched article of 2012, congratulations Nancy!

  13. This story is shameful misrepresentation of the facts.

    Firefighters, police and EMS who make $100,000 a year often hit that financial milestone because of working overtime shifts or, in most of the examples provided, retroactive pay increase cheques (ie. lump sum cheques to pay for wage increases that were not provided during several years that these emergency personnel worked without a contract). And saying things like firefighters were awarded a “27 per cent pay hike” is certainly an attention grabber. Yet I didn’t see the part about how many years those firefighters went without a contract. Are they like Windsor who has been without a contract for 8+ years? If so, is that 27% hike actually 3% per year over 9 years? I guess including those small details wouldn’t make nearly as good of a headline, would it?

    As for the poor mayor of Windsor who is “up at night” worried about how he will pay the firefighters who have been without a contract for EIGHT YEARS, he should be removed from office. If an executive in the private sector did not properly account for a financial liability that he KNOWS is coming and then did it again every year for EIGHT YEARS, he would have been fired long ago.

    And those police officers in Windsor who are over paid? They’re not the same ones who brought the murder rate down to ZERO are they? Windsor citizens and the Mayor should be incredibly grateful for the work that police force has done to keep them safe. But instead, these police officers are represented as greedy overpaid unioners. The Windsor police officers who topped the $100,000 mark probably did so by working overtime to keep their city safe and bringing that murder rate down to zero. Or maybe Windsor just got lucky.

    McLeans should be ashamed of this article and how it has portrayed the emergency personnel who take personal risks every time they go to work.

    As for comparing salaries to the U.S., not only is it a ridiculous apples vs. oranges comparison, do you really want to live in a society where your police offers, teachers, firefighters and paramedics have to find jobs as bartenders so they can pay their bills? The U.S. economy is still a financial disaster and is not something we should envy. Even when we are trying to misrepresent facts about the wages earned by certain Canadians.

    • As a former long term police officer (before overtime) I mostly concur with the author’s representation of the facts. This R.L. Stevenson quote has merit in this case, “Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences.”

    • The #1 reason for the low crime rate in Canada is our social net that allows people to have a choice to not turn to crime and the opportunity to climb out of poverty.

      The biggest threat to that net …. inflated salaries that leave little money for anything else.

  14. All public sector pensions should be converted to RRSP’s, plain and simple. Unless of course, there is something wrong with RRSP’s? Isn’t that only fair?

  15. Bus drivers earning 100k.
    Public servants overpaid.
    Taxpayers lose.

  16. This article mentions “outpacing their private sector equivalents”. I continue to see this comment made when arguing the opposition to fair pay scales for public sector workers. The fact that this comment is continually made without any understanding of how it is being used undermines the argument from the outset. There are no private sector equivalents to emergency service workers! I have needed emergency services in the past and personally I feel that if you are willing to go in to work every day with the possibility of coming home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder then you deserve the danger pay that goes with it.

    • YO!

      Think before you comment. With the exception of nurses, who do have high stress jobs, the stress levels of all the jobs you think are high stress …. are not any worse than anything else. With the exception of doctors, almost every high stress job is private sector.

      Try on job insecurity if you want to know what real stress is.

  17. Being a firefighter in a large Canadian city, I do not dispute we make a good wage based on what we do and are willing to do for our citizens. But please, why should a lawyer or engineer be paid more than someone willing to put their life on the line every day they go to work? The right-wing rhetoric is pure fear-mongering and nothing more. If our job is so good, maybe you should apply…….

    • Because being a firefighter isn’t nearly as dangerous as it once was. I’m sure you will argue, but the facts can certainly back me up on that one. Hours worked is another one. I don’t want anyone to be poor but it really shouldn’t be that teachers, police officers or fire fighters earn more than lawyers and engineers.

      • Exactly. The vast majority of 911 calls that involve a fire truck are bogus, or just tripped due to some overly sensitive smoke alarm (aka no real danger). I don’t deny that when there is a true emergency, the emergency personnel responding are proper heroes (i.e. I respect the LAPD officers who put their lives on the line during the 1997 bank shootout). These heroes deserve to be rewarded extra.

        However, the rest of the staff should not be getting inflated wages at the same time. Why should a parking-ticket officer with no education outside high school be making more than a tradie with an apprenticeship background or an engineer who went through 4 years of college? These grunts aren’t working hard or risking their lives. They’re needed, but they don’t need much more than a living wage. The worst part is that any personnel caught screwing up big time are extremely difficult to fire – they tend to be suspended-with-pay.

        As for teachers – I support GOOD teachers getting raises. But the union means that even the most incompetent teachers are nearly impossible to fire, and they get the same raises as everyone else. At my Vancouver high school, there were two teachers who were universally hated by all students and who simply weren’t doing their jobs as supposed to. They were eventually fired – for sex crimes outside of school. Not for incompetent performance, despite countless student complaints to the counselors for years. I’m happy to see my favourite physics teacher (a very dedicated and engaging man, well liked by most students) making over 70k. I am not happy to see my history teacher (one of the two fired for a sex crime), a buffoon who gets his own facts wrong, making the same wage as my physics teacher.

        To Bryan, I’m not accusing you specifically of being a deadbeat worker, but the fact is many of your colleagues are, whether you’re a teacher, fireman, or cop. The public sector wages are inflated and the rest of us are paying the price for it.

    • give it up, I work on 10million btu boilers and 200amp systems, tell me about danger again.

    • Because you don’t put your life on the line every day for one. Rarely in fact. Far more construction and road workers die than firefighters. We are not falling for that sob story any more.

      Two, you chose that career, and even if it paid 30% less, we would have more than enough people who would make the same choice … and would probably do it for love of the job, not money.

  18. Love this article!! Well on our way to becoming the next Greece and the low paid private sector suckers can suffer and wish they had a dad, brother, mother etc that could get them a good job with the public sector. Shame on you and your sense of entitlement. People at Tim Hortons work harder than any teacher I know and most firefighters in my city run businesses on the side because they have so much time off. Some industries should not qualify for overtime and take time off instead. Start with the police and firefighters.

    • ur an idiot….

  19. Wow… I made just over $50,000 last year as a full time teacher in BC…. maybe its time to move :)

    • yes and bananas come in florescent pink

  20. Dear Macleans. Shame on you for this under-researched article. Yes, teachers enjoy good pension plans. But they are not bonuses. Here in Alberta, almost 10% of my paycheque is garnished for contributions. At the end of my years, I don’t get a prize, I get my hard-earned money back. I am quite tired of having to remind the public of this, I expected better from you!

    • Your 10% is matched which makes your real salary much higher.

      Personally, I have to put away 20% of every one of mine so stop whining.

  21. You might want to actually take a look at your January 16, 2013 article, The New Underclass, in which you published:

    Wages are only part of the picture. Unions, once the guarantor of a
    comfortable middle-class lifestyle, have shrivelled as employers cut
    back on pension and health care benefits in a bid to better compete in a
    globalized market. Indeed, the very concept of a gold-plated,
    defined-benefit corporate pension plan (which guarantees a certain level
    of retirement income) has all but disappeared. A recent study by the
    debt-rating agency, Dominion Bond Rating Service,
    found that as many as two-thirds of North American defined-benefit
    plans are underfunded.

    You can’t lament the deterioration of pensions in January and vilify them in June and expect to be taken seriously, can you?

  22. An argument can also be made that paying police officers good wages will in fact lead to a reduction in crime.

    It is a well known fact that corruption is rampant in countries where police officers are paid very very little. Of course, these are third world countries and an argument can be made that these countries are corrupt everywhere but we know that a police officer’s job is not a “preferred” choice for an educated person. Thus, your left with people who couldn’t get any other job applying for the “authority” fist fighting job of a police officer.

    That said, in North America, there is more to policing than big biceps and looking tough. You need to prevent crimes from happening and when they do, you need the brains to solve them. But of course, there is only a limited amount of educated and qualified individuals in our labor pool. If police departments want to higher the best and brightest (outside the big biceps realm) for the dangerous, unsanitary (vomit, blood and spit is a regular occurrence), violent and grossly under appreciated job of a police officer, you need to attract them with a very good salary.

    I don’t want to rundown the quality and dedication of U.S. police officers, I’m just saying, if you pay well, you will get the best candidates for the job. If you look at the qualifications of Canadian top cops, it’s not uncommon to see them with Master degrees. Maybe Windsor has a lower crime rate because of their hireing policy….

    I don

    • Actually almost all research points to the low crime rate in Canada being a result of our strong social net which generally removes reasons for entering crimes in the first place and also allows people to climb out of poverty and not be criminals.

      The number 1, one, uno threat to our social net is excessive government salaries that leave little money for anything else. User fees, huge tuition increases, failing infrastructure …. all the result of way too much government money spent on salaries and not investment.

  23. The employers portion IS part of the public sector empoyee’s salary. It’s not a “gimme” or a gift. Some time ago public sector workers gave up wage increases in exchange for the employer funding part of the pension contributions. This way, public service workers are obligated to contribute their portion with the employer contributing their portion (which is part of a total compensation package), making it all mandatory and automatic. This 30 or so years of forced discipline, coupled with the fact that it’s a shared plan (meaning that if the retiree and his spouse die soon after retiring, the money stays in the plan to benefit those who live longer. The money doesn’t go to heirs as it would if one saved their own cash for retirement).

    Big DB plans in Canada a very healthy generally speaking. Regular actuarial evaluations are done to determine the health of the plan and allow for minor tweaking (usually a percent or two increase from both parties if required). The difficulty lately has been the ridiculously low rate of interest that is hurting almost everyone, especially seniors.

    Horror stories about DB pensions abound in the media, however many of these stories come from cities and states in the U.S. who made ridiculous and unrealistic promises to employees, didn’t pay their obligations into pension funds and generally squandered employee contributions other things.

  24. The real question is Teachers, Firemen, Police and Doctor’s are at their max and should be capped now? As for their pensions they pay into it largely themselves and this topic should not be brought up at all not to mention the unions invest the money very wisely….unlike politicians who pay $1.00 and the tax payer matches it at $25.00, now here is something that needs to be addressed because we’re paying out more money for politicians that is be brought in….enough of these politicians using the media to attack unions who built the foundation of the labour laws and health and safety….it’s funny how the government has put the whole public sector freeze on everyone except the police who are now making more than teachers? It’s funny how the government has no money yet ….the can dish out tax payer money to corporate welfare year after year after year…..lets see the true numbers of welfare given to the poor and welfare given to the rich corporate greedy companies, how come we’re never shown this? Enough of this right wing government, who’s trying to kill the unions, create poor, poor society and only help the rich…….let the corporations start paying their fare share of tax dollars because 13.5% compared to my 35% just does not seem mathematically correct considering that the average working man pays 85% of tax revenue generated and the rich corporations pay 15% in Canada, I don’t get to right off my hydro, gas, insurance etc…either…..and what really fuels my blood is how does the government have the nerve to not give the municipal, provincial and federal union workers raises excluding police and themselves who the have money for always, have no money for the rest of the front line union workers and always have money for the private corporation welfare bailout. We should never be bailing out corporations. tax dollars should be spent on the average Joe because this is what buys things and keeps the economy going……now the private sector takes these huge tax breaks, hordes the money, makes record profits, does not give raises and does not create jobs but yet are government keeps giving them whatev

    er they want………..wake up people……the right wing thinking has done nothing but put this country deeper and deeper in debit…… is proven history……the average worker needs the tax break, not the rich, Canada’s poverty is at it’s lowest if you can’t see this your blind and its all due to helping the rich.

  25. The story about pay raises is hard to swallow for the Windsor area. In the last ten years Windsor has spent close to $600 million on infrastructure while beating down wages and pushing more workload onto the current force which has made city hall a pretty toxic work environment. They can’t keep blaming the public sector for not being able to keep industry , draw new industry and keep property values up for the tax rates. They also have had zero tax increase, yet adjust the mill rate and have increased the price of hydro and water to make profits for the city.
    Just another politician, nothing fancy here.

  26. To compare the education requirements of 3 professions:

    Police Officer: You must be a secondary school graduate from any province of Canada with a Class G license and Certified in Standard First-Aid and C.P.R. (Level C) Source OPP Web site

    Teacher: To get a teaching certificate you will normally need an undergraduate degree and one year of teacher education(Source: Ontario Ministry of Education: 4 to 5 years)

    Lawyer: Undergraduate Degree + Law School entrance test + Law degree + Year of Articling + Bar Exam (7 to 9 years) Source: Various Law Schools

    But as per the article:

    “With an average income of $83,500, schoolteachers in Ontario now earn the same as the average lawyer in that province”

    “In January, an arbitrator awarded the [Windsor] police a hefty 12 per cent pay hike over four years, retroactive to 2011. As a result, 40 per cent of the force took home more than $100,000 last year.”

    You are free to draw your own conclusions but the one that pops out to me is that joining a government union is worth more than going to school for nearly a decade.

  27. Not much more can be said but what has been. In Peterborough, Ontario along with at least two other communities that tried to regulate police budgets the Mayor’s were removed from the local police boars by the bureaucrats in place in Toronto. If the Liberal government, now NDP run it seems, cannot see the forest for the trees then drastic measures to level the field need to be passed. These groups cannot lead nor can they lag the economy, they have to be fiscally neutral. The way it stands now it won’t be long until there is even less than not enough money to go around. Action on part of all Canadians is needed and not as a passing phrase but in an active participation.

  28. Surprise ? haha Monopoly wages for monopoly services….the new ELITES…We need to BAN all Public Service Unions and all Teachers Unions….or the FRAUD and THEFT will continue !

  29. “At this point, landing one of these jobs is “like winning a lottery,” says Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute. ”

    Maybe OLG should control the hiring for these gold-plated professions ????

    • haselcheck, I invite you to work one 12-hour shift at the Foothills Medical Centre emergency department and you will truly find out if landing a job in nursing is “like winning the lottery” OR in the alternative, you could take on a day of teaching 25 grade 1 students at your choice of elementary school and tell us how easy that job is. I would also recommend that you ride along in an ambulance and a police car in downtown Toronto. I think the education to you would be priceless.

      • I doubt it….only whiners think that this is hard work…

      • Dated teachers, nurses, and even a female firefighter. Not one of them worked remotely as hard as I do and virtually of them had way way more free time then I did.

  30. The Ontario McWynnity Liberals seem very determined to grow the Sunshine List… show that being a Have-Not Province can be a good thing…..

  31. Do you think that maybe this is why the Working Families Coalition ( a Superpac for the Teachers Unions and the Public Service Unions ) spent almost $10 Million in the October 2012 election to ensure that the corrupt McWynnity Liberals got re-elected.??

  32. What’s the problem with public service unions, teachers unions and liberals running things ???? It worked for Detroit ….right ?

  33. take me for example…. i’m a made man.

  34. Politicians getting pensions after 6 years in office is a serious problem. A pension to a government employee after 25 or 30 years service is just. Lets not confuse the two. Oh and lets not forget that Canada Pension is deducted dollar for dollar of federal and provincial pensions. Essentially federal and provincial employees pay their whole working lives into a play they don’t ever collect.

  35. Most Fire and police members actually can’t take advantage of such pensions, we tend to die early from stress related illnesses such as heart disease or cancers. I feel we are often criticized for salaries or workload, but we are the ones you all call for help when tragedy or misfortune occurs to mitigate the situation. We experience and subject our self unselfishly for our community.

    • If it were truly unselfish, the pay would be comparable to what our military members get …

    • Oh give me a freaken break. Unselfishlessly? If it was unselfish you would do it in the evening for free …. you don’t do you. Your union won’t even let you work “for free”.

  36. Scammed by gov’t on one side, and crooks on the other, taxpayers are the meat in a sandwich. Yes, a parasite CAN kill the host organism.

  37. Why did Nancy Macdonald only write half an article? She failed to mention Eddie Francis spent $80 million on a pool. He can hardly be pleading poor to the arbitrator when he is spending like a drunken sailor.

  38. And let’s not forget that Francis gave top administrators in Windsor raises in the $1000’s of dollars. The CAO is the 4th highest paid CAO in the province. Meanwhile the city continues to suffer as the population drops below 200,000, and property taxes have risen 20% over the last 10 years. The same amount of time as Francis has been mayor.

  39. Maybe the people that are paid more in Windsor, take more ownership of their jobs and actually care if they lose their job or not. A higher salary also attracts better talent, whereas offering someone $40,000 to risk their life with the worst criminals the city has to offer – probably only attracts those who are borderline anyways.

    Let me ask you this: if YOU were the one faced with being rescued, would you rather have the honest cop come to your aid, or the one that might take a bribe to turn away. Or, just the cop that decides he’s still on lunchbreak? Would you rather have a teacher that spends extra time with your kids, or have to do extra homework every night because teaching ends when the bell rings?

    I’m just sick and tired of everyone always complaining about the salaries that everyone ELSE gets, but then are unwilling to pony up when it comes to their own backyard – expecting service when there is none because funding dried up years ago. And then have the gall to ask “why”?

    I have relied upon the services of firefighters, police offers, nurses and teachers on several occasions in my life, and I can truthfully say that they’re not paid enough when it comes to saving my hide and taking care of my family. When the rubber hits the road, they have always answered the call of duty responsibly, and I would have gladly paid them whatever I had to make things better.

    Also, don’t forget that the majority of Canadians are more highly educated, have better training, job experience, health… the list goes on. What that adds up to is an opportunity cost: you can only hire people from an available labor pool, and if they can get jobs elsewhere – in the private sector, for instance – getting better paying jobs, then that’s where the talent will go. I know when I was a kid, my science teacher was getting a salary of something like $80K – but he was good, and he could easily get a job as a chemical engineer someplace else earning twice as much. But, teaching offered a lifestyle that was attractive, and so he took that path instead. (And then he started cooking crystal meth and went by the name of Heisenberg… but that’s another story…)

    I digress. What DOES cause a problem are all the complete IDIOTS out there who make emergency calls for help with things like:

    – finding the remote control
    – telling their children to go to bed because it’s their bedtime
    – requiring assistance to lift a couch
    – wanting an immediate interview for a blog post
    – needing help to find their car because they’re too drunk to see
    – getting someone to deliver food and booze because the restaurant wont deliver

    Or how about all the parents out there who are just not involved with their kids and are too busy drinking, gambling, or just smoking up and beating the crap out of everyone in the family every night? “Oh, that doesn’t happen that much”, you say. Well, I can bet you dollars for donuts that the domestic violence and general ignorance happens a lot more frequently than the person who went to the Mayo Clinic for a second opinion. The point is that there are exceptions to every rule, and sure there are people out there who abuse the system – but it’s the best system we have. It might be broken a little bit, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the stuff we see in other countries.

    If you are complaining about paying people in the public sector too much, then you also have to realize how many totally stupid people there are in the public who need to be taken care of – who need to receive the exact same treatment as someone who isn’t dumb. That’s the problem with a public – it’s filled with all kinds of people. We can’t just take care of the people who really need our help, we also have to take care of all the idiots that just need a slap in the face when they make an emergency call or expect teachers to be babysitters, social workers and psychiatrists. The problem with public service is that is must be designed to serve the public and not just a select segment.

    And to this I say, they don’t get paid enough. Spend one day in their shoes having to be reasonable with all the dregs of society, cleaning up blood and vomit, dealing with suicides, watching children miss school because they’re hurt or hungry or sick – again, sitting idly by as a family struggles with mental illness, the list goes on. And YOU would have to do this on a $45,000 a year salary, and take all that baggage home to your family and keep a happy face on.

    Isn’t that worth paying a small premium? How much would you pay to save your own life, or the lives of your children?

    • so you’re telling me that the government is made up ONLY of the top qauility individuals who take pride in how they treat their constituents and only are ever looking out for the peoples best interest? they make a hell of a lot more then and cop or FF so they must be the best right?

      • No. You are taking things out of context. The whole story is about a correlation between the earnings of civil servants in Detroit vs civil servants in Windsor. Of course there’s a lot more at play, too, if you really want to get into it. Gun laws. Social services. Education. Economics. We can keep going on and on. Earnings and money is not a determining factor of morale or integrity or anything like that. Lots of studies prove people’s propensity to steal, lie and cheat in the right environment whenever money is involved. It was merely a provocative statement to spawn discussion on an obviously polarizing subject.

    • It is people like you who “laud” people for simply doing the job they are ACTUALLY PAID TO DO that are the heart of the issue. Guess what … you are paid to do a job, whether it is McDonald’s at minimum or a cop at 100K .. freaken do it!

      You know what, I generally get far better service from private sector people paid 40-50K a year versus government workers making 2x!! Why? Two reasons. One, if they did not provide that service they will get canned. Two, they have a manager that ensures they provide that level of service and if they do not, they have the recourse to ensure that level of service is provided. Bad public sector service … oh well.

      Should someone be complimented for going beyond the expectations of their job… sure. But all you have described in your usage of these services is people doing the job they are very well paid to do … most of whom (especially since their union does not allow it) would never work overtime without being paid for every last minute.

  40. Want to see what happens when the police are not adequately paid? Look at Mexico.

    Good for Windsor!

  41. This is an awful article full of half-truths and misleading data. My wife is a teacher in Ontario, near the top of her game, and her income is nowhere near the “average” $83,500 cited.

    Unions ARE NOT responsible for bankrupting us, – that’s corporate-fascist tripe. The reason there is (or was) a middle-class in the first place is BECAUSE of unions, and the reason things are so bad now is because fools believed the right-wing mantra about unions forcing our jobs to go elsewhere. In order to save those jobs, we allowed large employers to cut our wages, slash benefits, and raid our pension plans. This was to compete with cheap labour in third-world countries. Those fattened companies moved those jobs abroad anyway, and far from struggling to survive the poor corporations have been making record HUGE profits.

    The wages of pubic employees HAVE NOT shot up, nor are they abnormal in any way. They’re simply where everyone’s wages would have been been had corporations and the Conservatives not pulled the wool over our eyes, and the carpet from under our feet.

    If we want things to return as they were, we have to stop this race to the bottom mentality. Force corporations that want to sell here to hire and build here. They need us as customers far more than we need them as employers,

    Anyone else getting a suspicious feeling about Mike2 and Mike Ditto? They seem extraordinarily…similar. I’d also remind them that Walker’s state of Wisconsin has one of the worst economies in the USA, as do the vast majority of union-busting Republican red states. They’re ‘takers.’

    • Bull!

      They absolutely have shot up. They have exceeded GDP growth and average private sector growth (including CEOs) for as long as I can remember.


      Corporations do not and cannot bankrupt governments. Governments and governments alone decide how much money they are going to spend. They can at any time reduce spending and keep debt under control.

      Brazil forces companies that sell there to build there…. notice how well their economy is doing?

      No one is suggesting a race to the bottom or cutting government salaries by 50%. I am not advocating eliminating 100K positions either. However, you can’t ignore economics either.

      Ridiculous government salaries …. not even paid for yet, paid with debt, have inflated the cost of everything in Ontario and Canada in unsupportable ways. IT IS NOT SUSTAINABLE.

      Simple, 15-20% across the board wage cut for most government employees (and I would wholeheartedly agree even higher for management).

      Economics give you a choice: No risk, little reward or high risk and potential for high reward. Government jobs are 0 risk … you get pay, salary, etc. no matter what quality job you do. That type of job should inherently pay less … no risk. However, things have gotten screwed up. Not only do the jobs carry little risk, but they also carry high rewards. It is the worst thing you can ever do as it does not remotely encourage hard work and productivity,

      CANADA has about the lowest productivity of any modern economy …. and we wonder why?

  42. I would accept these high wages for the public sector if the unions did not go all-out to protect incompetent workers.

    Had two teachers in my high school who were hated by virtually every student. Complaints would be lodged to the counselors every year. Yet they smugly held on to their jobs, despite blatantly not doing them properly (try a history teacher reciting the wrong facts to students, and refusing to admit it), and got pay raises to boot.

    Both were eventually fired, one three years after the other? How so? They committed sex crimes. Yes, a sex crime is far more serious offence than being a deadbeat. But if it took a sex crime to fire both of them after 10-20 years on the job, that says a lot about the union.

    Similarly, how many police officers caught breaking the law have held on to their jobs? If they’re suspended, it’s with pay. Yes, everyone should be innocent until proven guilty. But even after being proven guilty, the punishment too often tends to be a slap on the wrist. Not even a demotion/pay cut. I know cops have basically no chance if it’s an extreme crime like premeditated murder, but what about assaults on the wrong guy or drunk driving?

    If I was equally as incompetent in my job, i.e. writing sloppy code and never bothering to fix bugs, never completing assigned tasks on time, etc, I’d be out the door before you know it, and I’d deserve it. The day this is strictly enforced in the public sector is the day I approve of their high salaries.

  43. Gives a new light on, “eat the rich”…

  44. As I say to all people that complain about teachers, which year was it that you didn’t get accepted to teachers college? For me it was 1994.

    As I say to all people that complain about firefighters and police officers, how many times have you failed the test? I passed firefighter test but was unable to do the physical.

    An lately, don’t mess with nurses, because will all know you couldn’t get into nursing school if you couldn’t pass the firefighters test. I know that I couldn’t do that job.

    There’s an old saying before you judge walk a mile in that person’s shoes. Most of these haters aren’t able to educate a dog. The others wouldn’t be brave enough to run into a burning building or chase down that armed robber.

    And I’m sure you are all too good to comfort that dying grandmother. I’m also sure you are all to good to clean her up after she has an accident, too. And I’m sure you wouldn’t be calm in an emergency situation.

    Judge me if you want…But all these PROFESSIONALS earn every cent.

    Oh, and since you were able to read this, thank a teacher!

    • Sorry but they don’t earn it. They earn about 20-30% less. The rest is a gift.

      We have never ever had any issue finding more than enough qualified firefighters and police officers. You know what, it has never been an issue finding people to run into burning buildings or chase robbers. Has not in the last 25 years or more.

      Used to be hard to find teachers, but now we have a 5+ year surplus of trained teachers. Why? …. we pay them too much which encouraged too many people to pursue the career.

      Nurses … that may be a different breed. It actually is not that hard for those academically inclined to be a nurse … academically they are still in the lower end of the academic scale compared to most who attend university. That said, there has often been a shortage, but even that was brought on mainly by higher U.S. salaries … and I am okay with supply and demand. If we need more nurses and we can’t get them, then obviously we need to pay more. That does not apply to firefighters, police officers or teachers.

  45. Police salaries used to be like ours, but they have been disproportionately increasing since the late sixties – that is, since the income distribution has been reverting to the wealthiest in the country. I remember in 1973 when Time magazine did an article on the trend to police shows; before that, they were still public servants and human beings, not unaccountable superheroes. When police were first formed (they have only existed since the mid-1800s), they were not allowed to have unions, in recognition of their power and the potential for abuse (and calling it a “police association” didn’t eliminate the problem); it’s our elitist courts that increased their power. I’ve worked with police – as individuals they’re a varied group of people, some bullies, some heroes, most just a bunch of nice guys. But police forces are another government bureaucracy, and in the end, they stand between the rest of us and the “1%”. They are given a lot of discretion and they need to ask themselves whose side they’re on. With these pay ranges, how would you decide?

  46. To bad are Armed Forces don’t have those wages …

  47. 3rd party private Fire services will evolve. Bank on it.

  48. The writer makes some errors of fact (and more of implications). Ontario teachers have good salary and benefits, but none can retire at 70% of salary at age 53! Very few work long enough to earn a pension of 70% of average of best 5 years’ salary — that would require 35 years full-time in Ontario, and no one at age 53 has that. The formula is, 2% of salary for every “qualifying year” of full-time employment by an Ontario school board. Many retire with 25-30 years (and many with less, if they entered the field later, or took parental leave). With 25 years, a retiring teacher would have a pension of 50% of best 5 years’ salary, which for most is (currently) in the 60-75k range. When they reach 65, the Canada Pension Plan claws back 70% of what would be earned from CPP, so the teacher’s pension goes down at that point. Although public servants (provincial employees, etc) often have medical and other benefits that persist after retirement, teachers do not, they must purchase their own.

    Articles such as this often suggest that the maximum salary is commonplace, but that is inaccurate. Only a small minority are in the top pay category. No elementary teachers have a salary of 100k; they may earn an income of that much by being summer school principals, teaching continuing education courses, doing secondments for EQAO of the MOE, but it is the co-ordinators, superintendents, vice-principals and principals whose salaries are over 100k. BTW, some of the “teachers” identified in the “Sunshine list” are acrually bureaucrats/administrators who have not taught in a classroom for many years, their role is administrative but they are still officially designated as teaching personnel.Macleans and other media should make more of an effort to provide correct data. Police and firefighters also have good salary and benefits (better than teachers, but they earn every penny); they also can earn overtime which is not an option for teachers.

    Skilled tradesmen are also potential very high income earners. A neighbour who is a bricklayer earns over 150k/year, and works seasonally. Some of the tech fields offer more earning potential than teaching, law or policing: check out nuclear energy technician. Starting salaries are high and benefits outstanding.

    I am happy that I earn enough to not need to work a second job; instead I can concentrate on meeting the needs of my students, often providing supplies, materials etc. for them that they can’t afford.

  49. It never ceases to amaze me how articles like this can continue to contain half-truths, incomplete information, or outright fallacy. 1) Teachers pay 12% of their gross income into their pension plan. If private sector workers did the same, their RRSP’s would look pretty sweet. 2) The teachers on the sunshine list are not just working their regular job, but are also working night school and summer school. You begrudge these people working MORE than one job the chance to earn more? 3) For a teacher to earn a 70% pension AND retire at 53 (your implication), he or she would have to start teaching at the age of 18. I guess the facts, when presently clearly, don’t make for such an inflammatory and interesting article, so I can see why you like to fudge the truth.

  50. Why join the US for a race to the bottom? Maybe it is the private sector that is underpaying employees, squeezing every last dime out of them as profit. If CEO’s weren’t making obscene salaries companies could afford to pay employees a decent wage.
    “In Canada, the good life no longer belongs only to those who graduated from competitive professional programs, or built their own businesses, or came into family money.” What? Where does this statement come from? I think there are quite a few business owners and trust fund kids who are making more than $100 000 a year. Just ask Galen Weston.