February 1, 2017 1:51 pm
Updated: February 1, 2017 1:53 pm

Ontario PCs promise to review salaries of public sector CEOs, executives if they win 2018 election

Electrical power lines run from the Ontario Power Generation in Bath, Ont., on Sept. 14, 2014.


TORONTO – Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives are proposing to review the salaries of public sector CEOs and other executives if they win next year’s election.

The announcement comes a day after The Canadian Press reported that Ontario Power Generation pay for about 80 executives will rise by up to $8 million over the next few years and transit agency Metrolinx is proposing to boost its CEO’s pay by up to $118,000.

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As a wage freeze lifts, all broader public sector agencies have until September to post their proposals for new executive compensation packages under a framework that caps salaries at the 50th percentile of “appropriate comparators.”

OPG landed on a maximum salary of $3.8 million for its CEO – who currently earns $1.5 million – though it says it is setting the target significantly lower.

Progressive Conservative critic Michael Harris called it “the tip of the iceberg.”

“How many more of these new compensation packages are taxpayers going to be on the hook for?” he said. “All the while, regular families struggle to make ends meet.”

READ MORE: Ontario Power Generation to raise salaries by up to $8M, Metrolinx proposes CEO salary boost

The Ministry of Energy fired back, saying Ontario has to “attract and retain highly specialized experts” to ensure nuclear – and therefore public – safety.

“The PCs would rather have Homer Simpson running our nuclear power plants than the best and the brightest technical operators in the world,” spokesman Dan Moulton said in a statement.

OPG has said the CEO’s salary will actually remain unchanged for three years, but the other approximately 80 executives will now be eligible for merit pay, and when the new program is fully implemented in 2019, that’s expected to cost an extra $6 million to $8 million annually.

OPG, which operates two nuclear sites and is responsible for more than $40 billion in assets, was granted permission by the government to use private-sector comparators, as the size and scope of its operations are “more complex than those of many other public sector organizations in Canada” and it has primarily recruited its executives from the private sector.

Metrolinx is proposing a range of $375,300 to $479,500 for its CEO, and the agency’s human resources committee will recommend target salaries to the board of directors once its receives public feedback.

Metrolinx came under fire in the latest auditor general report for not holding contractors and design consultants accountable for projects that were late or inadequate and still awarding new work to contractors that had performed poorly in the past, and it is also dealing with a troublesome joint roll-out of the Presto card system with the Toronto Transit Commission.

The government sent colleges back to the drawing board after concerns were raised about the salary comparators that they were using for proposals that would boost presidents’ salaries by up to 50 per cent.

Harris said the same should be done in these circumstances.

“(Minister) Deb Matthews called the colleges’ increases of up to 50 per cent unacceptable, so why no comment today on potentially the increases over at OPG and Metrolinx?” he said. “(Premier) Kathleen Wynne has to step in and take the same stance her minister did with regards to the colleges and say this is unacceptable.”

The Treasury Board said it expects that all public-sector employers will stick to the rules.

“This plan strikes an appropriate balance between being able to hire and retain talent and ensuring public transparency and appropriate salary caps,” spokesman Matt Ostergard said in a statement.

“Just as we did with Ontario Colleges, if we feel the process is not carried out properly, or does not reflect adequate or relevant comparators, we will ask the agency to go back and resubmit their proposal.”

The NDP says the raises and proposed raises are a slap in the face to Ontarians, most of whom also haven’t seen a pay increase in years.

Public sector agencies are required to post their executive compensation proposals publicly for 30 days of comment. Metrolinx’s proposal is available in a link on the homepage of its website. OPG’s public comment period is over, but it received four public comments.

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