Public sector pay, perks drowning Ontario in debt

Christina Blizzard, Toronto Sun Columnist

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

TORONTO - The warning signs keep piling up — and no one, apparently — is paying any attention.

First, we had a report from economist Don Drummond, who warned we can’t afford expensive programs like full-day kindergarten and said we need to get public sector pensions under control if we’re to rein in spending and control our mounting debt — which is hovering at the breathtaking $300-billion mark.

Then, this summer, on the Friday before the long August weekend, a shocking report on the state of the pensions in the province’s electricity sector was quietly released.

The report by former Ontario Teacher Pension Plan guru Jim Leech said the pension plans for Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Hydro One (H1), Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and the Electricity Safety Authority (ESA) are unsustainable.

For every $1 contributed to the plan by the employee, taxpayers and hydro ratepayers contributed more than $5, the report says.

“In 2012, total contributions from all sources to the four plans were approximately $585 million,” it says.

“Of the $585 million, just over $100 million was contributed from employees.”

All of which is pushing up the cost of electricity.

“Pension costs are reflected in the price that H1, IESO and OPG charge for their services,” Leech said in his report.

“Pension costs represent a significant risk to prices.”

The average pension at OPG is around $65,000 — more than the average salary in the rest of the province.

So all those seniors struggling along on a private pension who open up their hydro bill and weep because they can’t afford it can blame these out-of-control, unsustainable pensions awarded to the workers in the electricity sector.

It’s not just hydro where runaway pay and perks are costing taxpayers big time.

A controversial new OPP funding model announced by Public Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi last week will push up property taxes in most municipalities.

Under the new plan that comes into effect Jan. 1, an estimated 207 of the 324 municipalities the OPP service will see an increase in costs, while 115 will pay less.


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