Opinion: Alberta government salaries are higher than in other provinces

Albertans are paying for inflated government salaries and benefits.

With Alberta taxpayers being overcharged by $10 billion every year and the government’s debt climbing by $1.7 million every hour, it’s time for the provincial government to bring its pay scale in line with other provinces.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation obtained data on 47 different Alberta government positions. Of those government occupations, 43 are paid more by the Alberta government than the average in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

More than half of these government positions are paid more than $10,000 more than the average of these provinces every year.

Alberta’s government health-care salaries and benefits are especially inflated.

The average fee-for-service salary for an Alberta doctor is $413,035, roughly $100,000 more than those in B.C., Ontario and Quebec. If the Alberta government brought its per-person spending on doctors in line with these other provinces, taxpayers would save more than $900 million every year.

The Alberta government’s inflated health-care compensation is not the exception, it’s the rule. The CTF also obtained Alberta government data through freedom of information requests on 21 non-health-care occupations.

Of these 21 taxpayer-paid positions, 19 receive more in Alberta than the Ontario-West average, and many are paid more than $10,000 above their provincial counterparts.

For example, Alberta government administrative co-ordinators eligible for maximum compensation, and who work 2,000 hours a year, are paid $84,820. That’s over $15,000 above the Ontario-West average.

Alberta government policy analysts receiving the maximum compensation rate are paid $117,140 – more than $20,000 above the Ontario-West average.

Alberta government occupational health and safety officers eligible for the maximum compensation rate are paid $123,180 – more than $30,000 above the average.

“The MacKinnon panel recommended that over time that we move public sector remuneration to that comparable with the other provinces. We take that recommendation seriously,” stated Alberta Finance Minister Travis Toews during his recent budget town hall.

If the Alberta government does take that recommendation seriously, taxpayers could save a ton of money.

“Alberta could have saved around $2.1 billion in 2016, if public sector salary levels were the same as the average of the three biggest provinces,” explains former Saskatchewan New Democrat finance minister Janice MacKinnon and University of Calgary economist Jack Mintz.

Now contrast these inflated compensation costs with what’s happening outside of government.

Throughout the downturn, Albertans outside of government have suffered through salary reductions and job losses, with many still unemployed or underemployed.

But instead of relief, taxpayers were forced to shell out more tax money to pay for a growing government workforce.

Alberta added more than 10,000 government jobs and increased its compensation costs by nearly $3 billion since 2014. These costs have been added onto the backs of taxpayers while total workers’ pay in the province has declined since 2014 highs.

Multiple sources have found that government employees in Alberta earn a wage premium compared to workers outside of government. Then there’s the lucrative benefits that are scarce outside of government.

Government employees are much more likely to be covered by a workplace pension, are more likely to receive a costly defined-benefit pension, retire earlier, enjoy greater job security and take more time off work for personal reasons.

Albertans are forced to pay for these inflated salaries and benefits and it’s one of the reasons that taxpayers are being overcharged by $10 billion every year compared to similar provinces. It’s time to bring Alberta government salaries and benefits in line with these other provinces.

Franco Terrazzano is the Alberta director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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