It’s time for it to disappear

I had to give my head a shake this past Friday afternoon when, with everything else that’s happening in the world today, the Ontario government still found time to roll out its 2021 Sunshine List.

Released every year at the beginning of spring, the Sunshine List is a document that shines a light on public sector employees across the province who earn $100,000 or more annually. While newspapers all across Ontario routinely publish the findings of the annual report, including the identities of those found within, the Echo has decided not to name names this year.
Why? Quite frankly, I don’t see the point.

Let’s be honest for a second and call the Sunshine List what it is – an outdated publicity stunt designed to appeal to one of the worst personality traits a human being possesses: jealousy.

When the Conservative government, led by Mike Harris, first introduced the Sunshine List in 1996, it was offered up under the guise of their ‘Common Sense Revolution’. It was supposed to provide accountability on behalf of the public sector and transparency to the taxpayer.

Instead, all the Sunshine List has ever really accomplished is embarrassing those whose names are inscribed within its pages year after year. At its very core, the list is an incredible invasion of privacy. It always has been, and will remain one until the day it is cancelled.

While there are those, undoubtedly, who look forward to the Sunshine List’s publication each year, one has to ask the question – why?

What exactly does the Sunshine List accomplish? Knowing how much money an individual at our local school, hospital or town hall makes has absolutely no bearing on any of our lives. It may, however, have a bearing on theirs. Something that was, apparently, designed to increase productivity today likely has the complete opposite effect.

Disagree? Then answer me this. How many of you would be happy to have your name and earnings plastered in newspapers and around social media for all to see, simply because you earn a good living? Not many, I would assume.

And emphasis should be placed on that last point – a good living. Because that’s what $100,000 a year is now.

Back in 1996, the very first Sunshine List contained 4,501 names. The recently released list boasted a mammoth 205,606 individual entries. That’s nearly a 5,000 per cent increase on the number of people whose earnings were disclosed in that very first list. Extraordinarily, despite inflation rising by some 52 per cent in that time, the cut-off point for the Sunshine List remains the same.

For argument’s sake, $100,000 in 1996, when the list was first released, would be worth around $152,060 today. Looking at some other avenues, the average price of a home in Toronto was approximately $198,150 back in 1996. Today, that average has increased to an eye-watering $1.025 million. 23 years ago, a litre of gas ran you 56 cents. Today, that very same litre comes at a cost of anywhere between $1.10 and $1.30, depending on where you are in Ontario.

So, with everything else on the uppity up, why has the Sunshine List remained at that $100,000 threshold?

At least 66 people from Haliburton County suffered the ignominy of having their position and earnings called into question last week.

The practice is wrong, and should be halted immediately.