TORONTO — The CEO of Ontario Power Generation earned nearly $1.6 million last year, making him the highest-paid public-sector employee in the province on a growing list of those earning $100,000 or more.
Jeff Lyash, whose salary was $1,554,456 and $6,864 in taxable benefits, topped Ontario's so-called 2017 "Sunshine List" of the highest paid public-sector employees, which was released Friday in six thick paper volumes.
Lyash's salary was about $400,000 more than what he made last year, when he was also the highest-earning employee on the list.
The top ten spots on the list were rounded out by several other Ontario Power Generation executives, a pair of hospital CEOs, and the president of a corporation that manages investments for a university.
Liberal premier Kathleen Wynne, who is headed for a spring election, defended the need to pay a premium for some of those at the top of the list.
"There are situations where there are particular skill sets that are needed that we want to make sure we have the very best," she said.
Wynne made her comments while making an announcement at SickKids Hospital in Toronto. That's hospital's CEO, Michael Apkon, made $719,694 and $20,586 in taxable benefits last year, making him the 10th highest paid public sector worker in Ontario.
"I think we're standing in a place where we want the world's best here," Wynne said. "That's quite simply what we need. We need the very, very best people in our children's hospitals but also in our public services."
In 2017, there were 131,741 workers on the list, up from 123,410 last year, earning salaries and benefits that total over $16.8 billion.
The $100,000 threshold for those on the list has not changed since it was introduced by then-premier Mike Harris in 1996. Wynne said she won't be increasing the threshold because $100,000 is still a lot of money.
"We're committed to transparency," she said. "We think people in the province have a right to know what folks are earning and to the vast majority of people in Ontario $100,000 a year is still a lot of money. The threshold is not changing."
The province's second-highest earner last year was Daren Smith, president of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation, with a salary of $936,089. OPG's Chief Nuclear Officer Glenn Jager ranked third on the list, making $858,445.
Hospital CEOs also ranked amongst the highest paid public servants. Along with the SickKids CEO, the CEO of Baycrest Centre For Geriatric Care in Toronto, William Reichman, made the top ten bracket, with a salary of $722,875.
'Ontario's richest political insiders': Ford
Wynne made $208,974 last year. Former Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, who resigned abruptly in January amid sexual misconduct allegations, made $180,885, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath made $158,157.
Newly minted Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford called the disclosure a list of "Ontario's richest political insiders."
He singled out OPG CEO Lyash as an example of the "insiders and fat cats" getting big raises while people across the province struggle to pay their hydro bills.
"I don't know how many people out there can go back after hard day's work and tell their family they ended up getting (a) $400,000 raise," Ford said. "I just can't believe it."
The OPG said in a statement that Lyash has a base salary of $775,000 and the remainder of his pay is based on performance.
"The president and CEO is responsible for running the most complex and diverse electricity generator in Canada," said Ted Gruetzner, OPG's vice-president of stakeholder relations.
This time people can choose change for the better. It's time for a new premier who will invest in the needs of Ontarians.Andrea Horwath, Ontario NDP Leader
Meanwhile, the Liberal Party Caucus pointed that during Ford's term as a Toronto city councillor and key adviser to his brother, late former mayor Rob Ford, the number of city employees on the Sunshine List jumped from 5,415 in 2010 to 11,282 in 2014.
Horwath said the Sunshine List shows Ontario's top ten executives are "raking in millions" while people across the province wait for better health care.
"It doesn't have to be this way," Horwath said in a statement. "This time people can choose change for the better. It's time for a new premier who will invest in the needs of Ontarians."