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‘His own gravy train’: Cost of staffing Doug Ford’s office more than double Kathleen Wynne’s

The cost of staffing the premier’s office under Doug Ford has more than doubled since 2018, according to public salary disclosure data, spending that has far outpaced his predecessor Kathleen Wynne.

Public salary disclosures of those making $100,000 or more, also known as the Sunshine List, for 2023 show the total number of staff in the premier’s office under Ford, along with the number of people earning six figures, has grown since 2019, the Progressive Conservative Party’s first full year in office.

The increase in spending is a departure from the government’s initial declaration that Ford was ushering in a “new era of fiscal responsibility and respect for taxpayers.” The premier said that under his stewardship, his government would search for savings while remaining mindful of how Queen’s Park was spending public dollars.

In 2019, the Progressive Conservative’s first full year in office, 20 employees made the Sunshine List in the premier’s office, costing taxpayers $2.9 million in total compensation.

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By 2023, the number of premier’s office employees on the Sunshine List more than doubled to 48, with a combined compensation of $6.9 million.

Under the Ontario Liberals, there were 18 people earning more than $100,000 in the premier’s office. Global News

“That’s unacceptable,” said Jay Goldberg with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Is the premier’s office two or three times more effective than they were just a few years ago? I think the answer is no.

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“I think that we’re paying a lot more but we’re not necessarily getting more.”

The increase – 136 per cent in five years – also eclipses what Wynne’s premier’s office spent on staff.

In 2017, Wynne’s last full year in office, 18 people working in the premier’s office made the Sunshine List, with a combined pay of $2.8 million, compared with the $6.9 million paid out by Ford in 2023.

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Critics argue that Ford’s 2023 office spending is in direct contradiction to the premier’s promises in 2018.

“Doug Ford has been railing against the gravy train since I heard of Doug Ford, and he did it when he came in in 2018,” Liberal MPP John Fraser said.

“If you look at the premier’s office right now, he’s got his own gravy train and he’s the engineer.”

Global News asked the premier’s office for details on what was driving the surge in costs and whether any steps had been taken to shrink the size of the office. They did not respond.

When Ontario Premier Doug Ford took office, there were 20 people in his office earning more than $100,000. Global News

Meanwhile, the government is also being criticized for the spending figures outlined in last week’s provincial budget tabled by Ford’s finance minister at Queen’s Park.

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The government’s $9.8-billion deficit in 2023 is larger than Wynne’s $7.8 billion in her final budget in 2018, while Ford has added $86.7 billion to the provincial debt in five years, compared with the $61.4 billion the Liberals added to the debt over a similar five-year timespan.

At the same time, nearly every member of the Ontario Progressive Conservative caucus has been named as a cabinet minister or parliamentary assistant, topping up their MPP salaries by thousands of dollars.

Click to play video: 'Ford government tables most expensive budget in Ontario’s history'

Ford government tables most expensive budget in Ontario’s history

Goldberg said the “runaway spending” is a sign that costs at Queen’s Park need to be reined in.

“What really needs to happen right now is a top-to-bottom review of all government spending and leadership from the top,” Goldberg said. “Leadership from the top means slimming down the size of the Premier’s office.”

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Search a condensed Sunshine List below to see who made $175,000 or more last year in Ontario’s public sector:

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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