Ontario closes loophole in public-sector salary disclosure

Dwight Duncan.



TORONTO -- Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said Friday new regulations will close the loophole in public-sector salary disclosure laws.

"In keeping with the McGuinty government's commitment to accountability and transparency, I'm pleased to say that we've closed this loophole through a regulation," Duncan said in a statement.

"The regulation has amended the definition of 'salary' in the (Public Sector Salary Disclosure) Act to include specific forms of remuneration, namely per diems and retainers, received by appointees.

"The names, job titles and remuneration of these appointees will now be disclosed in the annual Sunshine List."

Previously, part-time appointees paid through per diem or retainer could report their income on a T4A tax form. Since provincial officials only included information from T4 forms, the part-time bureaucrats disappeared from the annual Sunshine List disclosure, even if they met the $100,000 pay threshold.

The glitch allowed former Workplace Safety Insurance Board chairman Steve Mahoney to keep his name off the list even though he made at least $127,000 a year between 2007 and 2011.

Likewise, provincial development facilitator Paula Dill had her $226,000 salary kept secret in 2011.

The new regulations mean all part-time salaries that hit $100,000 or more for 2012 will be included on next year's list, set for release April 1.

Opposition parties said the new regulation is too little, too late to improve the Liberal government's record on transparency and accountability.

"It's a loophole that, because it's so visible, could have been closed years ago," Progressive Conservative finance critic Peter Shurman said.

"But they didn't. When did they do it? In a period when we can't even comment or ask questions in the legislature.

"The bottom line is that when it was opportune for them to not be accountable, they were not accountable."

New Democratic Party House Leader Gilles Bisson said in a statement the Liberals dragged their feet on closing the loophole and are now asking for a pat on the back.

"These changes to the Sunshine List were put forward last May, so it's about time the Liberals got around to doing at least one thing they said they'd do," Bisson said. "It's too bad, as always, it took a scandal to get the McGuinty Liberals to take action."

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