PC Ability to Pay Act Gains Support from Mississauga and Others
28 September 2012
“It’s almost completely in line with what we requested the McGuinty government to move on…I’ve dealt with two ministers of labour and nothing happened, I’ve talked to the Premier and nothing happened, so I’m supporting the Conservative move.”
- Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, Mississauga News, September 26, 2012
QUEEN’S PARK – Momentum is building for the Ontario PCs’ Ability to Pay Act with the City of Mississauga jumping on board and passing a resolution on Wednesday to support the bill, aimed at tackling the biggest expense for the province and municipalities: employee government compensation, Ontario PC House Leader Jim Wilson said today.
“For the past nine years, Dalton McGuinty has failed to address the serious problems with the province’s broken arbitration system,” Wilson said. “Mayors like Mississauga’s Hazel McCallion have tried repeatedly to convince the Liberals to fix the system. They’ve seen the burden placed on taxpayers when settlements award outrageous wage increases for government employees and pay no consideration to a community’s economic reality.”
Due to unsustainable wage increases, mayors are often forced to either gouge taxpayers for more money or cut important public services, Ontario PC Municipal Affairs and Housing Critic Steve Clark added. The PCs, mayors and municipal leaders have all said the key to reining in ballooning compensation costs is to tie arbitration decisions to local economic conditions.
“While the salaries of unionized government employees are not tied to economic realities, the salaries of most Ontarians are,” Clark stated. “If you take all benefits into consideration, the province’s public sector workers earn 27 per cent more than private sector workers in similar jobs.”
Clark referenced a settlement from October 2010 when arbitrator Martin Teplitsky awarded University of Toronto professors and librarians increases of 4.5 per cent over two years, at a cost of $20 million, without considering the university’s finances. Teplitsky said he would not be a “minion of government” by respecting the Liberals’ call for a voluntary wage freeze.
Wilson mentioned that in Owen Sound, a settlement awarded to firefighters gives them a total wage hike of 10 per cent for the period from 2009 to 2011, costing the municipality $500,000. Shortly after the Ontario PCs tabled their bill, Owen Sound Mayor Deb Haswell expressed her support, stating she hoped it passed so future increases would be easier on taxpayers.
If passed, the Ability to Pay Act would require arbitrators to consider local economic factors like the state of the tax base and unemployment rate, and explain in writing how these criteria factored into a decision. It would require a panel of independent arbitrators to decide cases within three months, and published data on things like comparable wages in the broader economy so taxpayers know how their salaries stacked up to those on the government payroll.
“Nine years of ignoring the calls for help from mayors is too long. It’s time the McGuinty Liberals stood up for taxpayers and supported the Ontario PCs’ Ability to Pay Act,” Wilson concluded.