Salaries for senior execs at Ottawa City Hall rising faster than those in Toronto: Watchdog

Taxes are increasing and so are salaries of senior executives employed by the City of Ottawa, says the head of a taxpayer watchdog group.

“It’s obvious that whatever Jim Watson’s priorities are, generating income for city employees comes first in the mind of this mayor and council,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Gregory Thomas. “Protecting taxpayers is a distant second priority for them, if it’s even on their radar screen.”

Council approved the 2013 city budget with a 2.09% property tax increase Wednesday.

Mayor Jim Watson hinted public sector layoffs wouldn’t take place while he’s at the helm; positions would be trimmed through attrition.

But Thomas questions why executives’ paycheques still keep growing.

In 2011, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick raked in $385,785.25, while medical officer of health Dr. Isra Levy made $317,577.00, compared to $281,590.54 and $308,301.40 a year earlier.

In March, the city’s human resources director Catherine Frederick told the Sun the salary listed for Kirkpatrick on the annual disclosure excludes an important detail: Aa one-time payout for unused vacation time.

Thomas, though, isn’t backing down.

“The point is, it’s unmistakable. High-priced bureaucrats in Ottawa cost 11.5% more year-over-year from 2011 to 2010,” said Thomas.

The CTF compared Sunshine Lists — salaries of municipal employees earning more than $100,000 — from Ottawa and Toronto in the 2010 and 2011 disclosures.

The total number of city staffers earning more than $100K in Ottawa last year was 781, up from 691 a year prior.

“We don’t have access to contracts of these executives,” said Thomas, adding it’s clearly to “avoid accountability to taxpayers.”

The list doesn’t include the library, police or OC Transpo, he said.

“It’s just core City Hall,” said Thomas, calling the Sunshine List a “nice apples-to-apples comparison ’cause it just tracks all of the cash that goes into the pockets of these high-priced bureaucrats.”

Since 2010, according to CTF’s tally, Ottawa’s spending has increased 7%, versus Toronto at 1.9%.

“So we actually had a bigger dollar increase in what we’re paying the high-priced city staff in Ottawa than they did in Toronto, even though Toronto’s population is quite a bit bigger than Ottawa’s,” said Thomas.

Ottawa has close to 1 million residents, while Toronto has 2.6 million.

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

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