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A list that keeps on growing

It’s that time of year again – the Sunshine List is released, and many a person looks at the number of people in the public sector making six-digit incomes and begins to think, “I really should’ve tried harder at school.”

It’s no surprise that, yet again, the number of people in the government sectors of Ontario, along with other publicly-funded entities, making $100,000 per year or more went up. Looking back at money made in 2016, there were more than 123,000 people making a six-digit income at the expense of taxpayers. That’s about as many people as there are in Kingston.

This is a far cry from when the Sunshine List – or its much more catchy official name, the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act – was first introduced more than two decades ago in 1996. In the year that the Macarena entered our lives, there were about 4,500 people on that list. That marks an increase of more than 2,600 per cent.

Of course, the provincial government makes the point of mentioning every year how $100,000 per year isn’t a fair number, due to inflation. And that is true. According to the Bank of Canada, $100,000 in 1996 is the equivalent of a little more than $147,000 in 2016.

However, even taking that into account, the number of names on the list has grown substantially in the past 20 years. While adjusting for inflation would remove about 82 per cent of the names off this year’s list, there would still be more than 22,000 names on it, or about five times as many as there were two decades ago. Despite how the province tries to tinker with the numbers, it’s still a lot more people making a lot of money at the expense of taxpayers.

And speaking of taxpayers, saying $100,000 per year isn’t really that much is a slap in the face. That six-digit income is far more than a vast majority of people will be able to make in a year. According to Statistics Canada, of the 10 million people in 2014 bringing in an income in Ontario, just under 820,000 were making $100,000 or more, with the median income sitting at $32,380.

So no matter how you look at the numbers, something isn’t right in the public sector. It isn’t right that taxpayers, who have largely seen stagnant wages over the past few years, have to continue to pay for more and more high earners and more and more big raises. Something has to change.