Niagara’s $100K+ club grows during pandemic

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Normally, March is that time of year where the residents of Niagara come together to see which local public servants had made it into the prestigious Ontario Sunshine List: The $100k+ club.

This year, particularly after a challenging 2020 with the ongoing onslaught of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Niagara’s front line medical professionals ruled the day.

Niagara Health saw 238 registered nurses on the sunshine list in 2020 – an increase of over 111 from last year.  Other front-line positions were better represented on the list as well.  At the Niagara Region, 68 of the additional 112 regional employees included on the list were either paramedics or registered nurses.

Turning to Niagara Region’s top earners, unsurprisingly the list was led by acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji followed by Associate Medical Officers of Health Dr. Andrea Feller and Dr. Gayane Hovhannisyan.  The three top Regional health officials received a collective $802,208.28 inclusive of taxable benefits, an increase of $124,332.15 or 18% over their 2019 wages of $695,886.13.

Acting-CAO Ron Tripp holds the honour of the highest paid non-health related public servant employed by the Niagara Region having received $231,481.07 in total compensation for 2020.  Last year appeared to be a good one for Tripp despite Niagara’s economic circumstances related to the pandemic.  His 2020 wage represents a 5.31% increase or an additional $11,675.71 over 2019 compensation.  Coincidentally, Regional Council also approved a property tax increase of 5.92% for 2020.

The increase is despite a plethora of audits and other issues being identified with the Region’s procurement system.  Most of the issues originated from public works – an area of the Niagara Region overseen by Tripp before being appointed acting-CAO by the current Council.  Bruce Zvaniga was appointed by Council to manage public works in 2020 behind closed doors.  Zvaniga received just under $164,000 in total compensation for 2020.

Rino Mostacci, the Region’s now departed Commissioner of Planning saw reduced compensation in 2020 versus 2019 receiving $214,565.92 and $232,366.97 – likely a function of his retirement at the end of last October.  Mostacci placed just after Tripp in the $100k+ club.

Other members of Tripp’s senior management team also faired well in 2020 despite many in Niagara hitting hard times.  Commissioners Adrienne Jugley (Community Services) and Todd Harrison (Corporate Services and Treasurer) earned a combined $407,325.68 in 2020 – an increase of 4.8% or $18,705.12 over 2019 levels.

Over at Niagara Regional Police, the top three earners were predictably Chief of Police Bryan MacCulloch and Deputy Chiefs Brett Flynn and Bill Fordy who received a collective compensation of $899,173.11, an increase of 8.1% or $66,993.57 over 2019 levels.

For its part, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation voiced their displeasure over the broader growth of the Ontario Sunshine List.  According to the Federation, the list grew by 23% and now includes 205,606 public sector employees in 2020.

“Usually when an employer’s broke, it hands out pink slips instead of raises,” said Moulton. “This government must act now to reduce the size and cost of government instead of handing out raises that taxpayers can’t afford.”

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