The annual publication of the Sunshine List is always sure to incite heated debate on who earns what and why. The report of public sector employees earning more than $100,000 was first published in 1996 and only 4,576 names appeared in that first edition. There are 131,741 workers on the list this year and Premier Kathleen Wynne maintained that they “are committed to transparency. We think the people in the province have a right to know what folks are earning.”

Of course this set off the political machines of candidates posturing for position in the upcoming provincial election with PC Leader Doug Ford being the most vocal. He railed against the people on the list as “Ontario’s richest political insiders,” but offered little in the way of solutions on how to curb the spending. When questioned by a reporter on whether salaries should be cut, Ford replied, “I don’t believe anyone should be cut.”

It’s this type of shallow, knee-jerk reaction to an incendiary list that gets the attention of casual voters, but does nothing to address the real issue. It also does little in the way of actually analyzing the information to decipher some real problems within our province.

Any political candidate worth their salt and your vote should start asking hard questions.

Let’s take post-secondary education. When you look at the salaries of the staff at the University of Toronto, with 13 of the top 20 earners in the university category, the numbers add up to a grotesque $6.5 million in staff salary alone. So why are universities funded by the province? Higher education is big business these days with institutions churning out more graduates than ever yet the province has a serious shortfall of skilled workers. Shouldn’t some funding be allocated to apprenticeship programs? Why do tuition rates continue to rise? Why do parents work multiple jobs just to have their kid graduate, but struggle to find employment?

Nevermind the always popular targets of Hydro One and the Ontario Power Generation with salaries that are enough to make any humble citizen blush.

Perhaps our political leaders in waiting would be better served to devise new regulations on who is eligible for public funding. We all enjoy many essential services through our tax dollars, but if a company is a for-profit business and a non-essential service, then they should be up for review.

Offering people simple promises to a complex problem shows an unwillingness to do the real work and a disrespect towards the voter that should not be ignored. We need thoughtful leaders who aren’t afraid of having difficult conversations, not a painter intent on using his or her broad brushstrokes to hide the problem behind a wall of promises that do little to help the people while hiding behind a wall of “transparency.” Being transparent is one thing. Tackling the problems we can all see is another.

–T.S.