Opinion Editorial

Taming the public sector monster

Postmedia Network

(GETTY IMAGES)

(GETTY IMAGES)

A Fraser Institute report released Thursday suggests the Ontario public sector can best be described as a money monster.

It notes 1.3 million Ontario workers, almost one in five, or 18.7%, are employed by the public sector, meaning municipal, provincial and federal governments.

They enjoy, on average, better salaries, benefits and pensions than the 81.3% of workers in the private sector or self-employed.

Based on comparable jobs, public sector workers earn an average of 13.4% more annually, 10.3% when union membership is factored in.

They are far more likely to have pension plans (82.1%) compared to private sector workers (25.2%) and their pensions are likely to be better than those in the private sector.

That's because 97% of government workers have the best type, known as defined benefit plans. This compares to fewer than half -- 45.1% -- in the private sector for the minority of workers who have a pension.

Public sector workers retire earlier -- 1.4 years on average -- and take more personal time off, 10.9 days annually compared to 6.8.

They are far less likely to lose their jobs, with 0.5% laid off in 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available, compared to 3.2% in the public sector.

The cost of maintaining public sector workers in the style to which they've become accustomed places a huge burden on lower paid private sector workers.

Yes, public sector workers also pay taxes, but the bulk of government money comes from the more than 80% of workers in the private sector.

The cost of maintaining the public service is a major reason that Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government is now the most indebted sub-sovereign borrower in the world.

It is a major reason Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's election promise of a few years of "modest," under $10 billion annual deficits, with a balanced budget in 2019, has now exploded into $30-billion annual deficits as far as the eye can see.

It is a major reason, municipal councils are perpetually scrambling to find new ways of getting more money from hard-pressed property taxpayers.

Until federal, provincial and municipal politicians seriously attack the runaway costs of the public sector monster, all their talk about government restraint will come to naught.