Wednesday, as the House of Assembly staggered through a mostly useless debate on a motion
basically affirming the government’s wonderfulness, Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy offered up a little benchmark worth noting.
“We only have, Mr. Speaker, 1.6 per cent of our tax filers are making more than $150,000, or 6,500 people — 1.6 per cent of tax filers make more than $150,000, or 6,500 people.” It is an interesting point because of all the debate about the way things have improved for the top one per cent of income-earners in North America. And because, in Newfoundland, plenty of the slightly larger 1.6 per cent actually work for the rest of us.
It means, of course, that Premier Kathy Dunderdale is one of the 1.6 per cent. All of her cabinet, when you take into account their full salaries and their taxable benefits (like car and gas allowances) are members of the 1.6 per cent club, too. The Speaker of the House is pretty close, if not right in there, as is the Leader of the Opposition.
But with the release of the departmental salary details this week, you can see there are a few more in the mix, like the clerk of the Executive Council ($200,958) and (almost) the deputy-clerk, at $149.296. In total, there are some 70 senior civil servants who find themselves firmly in the 1.6 per cent.
And that’s only in the core civil service: that’s not taking into account the heads of health boards, or the province’s doctors — it’s hard to factor doctors in, because many are paid in their practices and you have to deduct the costs of those practices from any eventual income. But you can point out that a snippet of a recent auditor general’s report showed a total of 80 physicians or physicians’ practices in this province billed more than $600,000 a year, all the way up to a whopping $1.44 million, in 2011.
It also doesn’t consider the money paid out by Crown corporations. Like Nalcor — in 2009 (and salaries have probably not gone down), there were these salaries: president and CEO $390,612.72; vice-president engineering services, Newfoundland Hydro $149,377.58; vice-president, human resources organizational effectiveness $217,606.56; vice-president finance and CFO $251,960.59; vice-president regulated operations, Hydro $243,414.21; vice-president, strategic planning and business development $209,007.74; vice-president, Lower Churchill project $263,527.36; vice-president, oil and gas $221,382.29; vice-president and general manager, Churchill Falls $207,041.84.
Is the message that the people who are paid by government are paid too much? No.
Perhaps it should be that the rest of the province is paid so little that it doesn’t take much to find yourself in 1.6 per cent.
Two other notes from Kennedy’s comments: “four per cent of the tax filers make more than $100,000 — that is 18,000 people — and they pay 30 per cent of the total taxes in the province.” On Ontario’s sunshine list, for example — which reveals all civil servants who make over $100,000 — there are 88,412 people making more than $100,000 a year.
And think about this: while 80 per cent of this province’s taxpayers are paying less than 40 per cent of the province’s income taxes — they don’t make enough money to be paying more — they’re still paying the full shot for everything else, from HST on purchases to liquor levies to government fees.
And that raises an interesting question. We hear a lot about our red-hot, or even white-hot, economy.
Is this really what prosperity looks like?