Thursday, November 4, 2010

Salaries in Winnipeg

It is amazing what one freedom of information request will turn up. It is hard not to think it would have been discussed in the civic election had it been released when it was supposed to by law.

I don't think anyone in Winnipeg will not agree if they have worked elsewhere in Canada that salaries seem to be lower than anywhere else.

The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation believes city employees are overpaid compared to the rest of the province. However, compared to the rest of the country these are the numbers we see:

Average employee salaries in 13 Canadian cities in 2009:

Calgary: $60,520

Edmonton: $54,370

Ottawa: $47,030

Toronto: $46,660

Hamilton: $43,590

Vancouver: $41,440

Regina: $40,710

Victoria: $39,550

Quebec City: $39,260

Saskatoon: $39,210

Montreal: $38,240

Halifax: $38,170

Winnipeg: $38,050

Georges Chartier, City of Winnipeg economist, in a report given in April said that salaries are an impediment to attracting people to the city.

This is a significant issue when trying to retain or attract employees. Until the gap closes, Winnipeg's labour shortages will likely continue.

The Free Press discovery of this opinion of a top official with the city is devastating.

The absence of a larger base of companies paying top wages appears to be the main reason for Winnipeg's low salaries.

Over the years, we have seen one head office after another swallowed up and hundreds of workers downsized and transferred. Young people looking for jobs and opportunities are all too aware of where those are. The numbers they see in Winnipeg can be discouraging.

The Canadian Taxpayer Federation has blamed the situation in Winnipeg on taxes and salaries but how many more years of freezes and how much farther down the salary scale do we have to go before we become a city with great jobs and wages?

It is often said that government money doesn't create jobs. Well, in Winnipeg it looks that private money doesn't do a great job of that either. At least, not the kind of jobs that pay well compared to everywhere else in Canada.

So, who is the blame for the situation? I suppose the city might blame the province and to a certain extent, they are right. The overall economics of the province and how municipalities govern themselves all lie with the province. The city can certainly do better on governance and planning but they operate within parameters the province sets.

The province might blame the federation for the situation in Manitoba, especially Winnipeg. However, that doesn't explain why we perform so much poorer than anywhere else in the country.

After 10 years, the NDP government has not laid out a plan for making the province a "have" instead of a "have not." Shrugging of shoulders and saying something about not having oil is just not cutting it. Greg Selinger has to explain these embarrassing numbers and why companies like Agricore shutter their offices here and shed hundreds of workers leaving a huge hole in well paid workers for the city and province.

It will be up to all parties to present a plan for the future but only one party, the NDP, will have to explain their record.

As for the city, it will have to do its best within the rules the province sets to try and attract and grow city business. It won't be easy but if it doesn't find a way least we lose more head offices and large companies out of the province.

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