TORONTO - Despite promises to rein in public sector salaries as the governing Liberals wrestle with a $12-billion deficit, the number of top-paid provincial employees climbed 11 per cent last year to 88,412.
Executives from Ontario's energy agencies topped the so-called "sunshine list" of public sector workers who were paid more than $100,000 in 2012.
Tom Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Ontario Power Generation, was the highest paid at $1.7 million, down slightly from 2011, followed by Hydro One CEO Laura Formusa at $1.04 million.
The list — which includes doctors, nurses, teachers, police and firefighters in addition to civil servants — has grown 38 per cent since 2009.
However, the government said the average salary in 2012 was $127,566, down $41 from 2011.
Crown agencies saw their numbers grow, with 11,376 employees from OPG and Hydro One earning their place on the list.
The number of employees at provincial transportation agency Metrolinx on the list jumped to 304 in 2012 from 176 the year before.
Over at Ontario's troubled air ambulance service, 129 Ornge employees made the list, but disgraced ex-CEO Chris Mazza's name wasn't among them.
He was terminated in early 2012, but his sky-high salary disappeared from the list years before because he was paid through one of Ornge's for-profit companies.
Ornge's former chief operating officer Tom Lepine, who earned $287,513 in 2012, was listed as the highest paid.
Among the top earners on the list was Robert Bell, CEO of Toronto's University Health Network, who collected $828,552 last year, including taxable benefits. Catherine Zahn, president and chief executive officer of Centre for Addiction and Mental Health earned $746,321. Both were slightly down from 2011.
Rod Phillips, CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp., earned $680,000 last year, compared to $188,918 in 2011. He joined OLG in June that year.
Robert Peter, head of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, made $440,919 in 2012, down slightly from $447,881 the year before.
TV Ontario anchor Steve Paikin made $307,539 — up about $7,700 from 2011 including taxable benefits — compared to CEO Lisa De Wilde at $268,556, whose salary was virtually unchanged.
Former premier Dalton McGuinty clocked in at $209,272, about the same as 2011.
Four people at the Ajax Public Library made the list, as did five members of the public library board in Brampton.
The bulk of municipal employees on the list appear to be police and firefighters, including 68 police officers in Guelph. One first-class constable in Barrie was paid $159,671.
Both opposition parties were fuming that the list continues to grow.
"This is a government that wants people in Ontario to believe that they have effectively dealt with salaries in the broader public sector," Progressive Conservative finance critic Peter Shurman said after the list was made public Thursday.
"They haven't and this is the proof that they haven't, and this is the reason why we say we need a legislated mandatory wage freeze."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath repeated her call to cap the salaries of public sector CEOs at $418,000 — double what the premier makes. The CEO of London Health Sciences Centre made more than $600,000, she noted.
Some CEOs are getting raises larger than what the average single-parent family will earn in a year, she said.
"That is a shocking reality, and it's one that we've been trying to tell the government they have to get a grip on," Horwath said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged that the Liberals pledged in the past to ratchet down generous compensation packages.
"It is still our policy that we need to look at that, and we will take action," she said in the legislature before the list was made public.
But Finance Minister Charles Sousa said they have no intention of raising the $100,000 threshold for the sunshine list, which was first set in 1996.
What's important is that the system is transparent so people know how much public sector workers are earning and what they're doing for that money, Wynne said.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the average salary on the sunshine list decreased by $2,000 to $125,566. In fact, it decreased $41 to $127,566.