Canada: Why Gary Keating Is The Poster Child For Canada’s Spoiled Public Schoolteachers

Last Updated: October 25 2014
Article by Howard Levitt

Gary Keating has become the poster child for entitled Canadian public school teachers and an abject lesson as to the problem with public sector labour negotiations.

During his 28 year teaching career, Keating had risen to the position of high school principal before venturing into politics. But only three weeks after being elected to the New Brunswick legislature by a mere nine votes, he resigned, betraying his party, constituents and New Brunswick's taxpayers, who must now foot the bill for a by-election. Keating said it quickly became apparent the job's "long hours and travel" were such "that the role is not for me."

The travel he referred to is the 100 km, or an hour of highway driving, between Saint John and Fredericton — less than the average daily commute for employees in the greater Toronto area. And how often would he be required to even attend the Legislature? Assuming he did not keep an apartment in Fredericton, the legislature sat for a grand total of 52 days last year and 45 in 2014 as of the end of last month.

Sticking with the "long hours," which apparently was incompatible with this teacher's view of his "health" (he is a marathon runner, not an overweight diabetic) and "family life," we are, after all, not talking about the federal Minister of Finance but a New Brunswick backbencher.

There are teachers who work hard, and others who do not work hard but are nevertheless good teachers. But if you are looking for a career that permits you to work few hours, take three months off a year, have job security despite your performance and retire at age 55 with a great pension, public school teaching is the only game in town. That makes it inevitable that many people enter teaching largely for the lifestyle at the expense of our youth and, ultimately, this country's educational needs.

The biggest boondoggle is teachers' pensions, which are calculated on 70% of their best five year's average earnings for life

I have devoted a couple of columns to excessive teacher salaries, which garnered more reaction than anything else I have written, because no one had published the calculations until then. I noted that the average elementary public school teacher in Toronto, who decided to work only the minimum hours required by their collective agreement, earned a wage of $78 an hour (likely that has gone up). In Ontario, the 2012 Drummond Report found about half of teachers were at the top level of their salary range, at nearly $95,000. This puts them well into the top 10% of income earners, according to Statistics Canada's National Household Survey from 2011. In Alberta, the average teacher now earns $99,300. Canadian teachers are among the three highest paid in the world. And I did not even take into consideration their benefits.

But the biggest boondoggle is teachers' pensions, which are calculated on 70% of their best five year's average earnings for life with inflation adjustments. They can work part-time, then go full-time for the last five years and retire with a massive pension for life, while supplementing that income with work as an occasional public school teacher or a full-time private school one. We are subsidizing our most experienced teachers to leave at age 55, on a full pension, while they double-dip. While teachers do contribute half of their pensions, the taxpayers pay the other half. That assumes there is no shortfall and pressure for taxpayers to make it up.

Gary Keating has become the poster child for entitled Canadian public school teachers and an abject lesson as to the problem with public sector labour negotiations.

During his 28 year teaching career, Keating had risen to the position of high school principal before venturing into politics. But only three weeks after being elected to the New Brunswick legislature by a mere nine votes, he resigned, betraying his party, constituents and New Brunswick's taxpayers, who must now foot the bill for a by-election. Keating said it quickly became apparent the job's "long hours and travel" were such "that the role is not for me."

The travel he referred to is the 100 km, or an hour of highway driving, between Saint John and Fredericton — less than the average daily commute for employees in the greater Toronto area. And how often would he be required to even attend the Legislature? Assuming he did not keep an apartment in Fredericton, the legislature sat for a grand total of 52 days last year and 45 in 2014 as of the end of last month.

Sticking with the "long hours," which apparently was incompatible with this teacher's view of his "health" (he is a marathon runner, not an overweight diabetic) and "family life," we are, after all, not talking about the federal Minister of Finance but a New Brunswick backbencher.

There are teachers who work hard, and others who do not work hard but are nevertheless good teachers. But if you are looking for a career that permits you to work few hours, take three months off a year, have job security despite your performance and retire at age 55 with a great pension, public school teaching is the only game in town. That makes it inevitable that many people enter teaching largely for the lifestyle at the expense of our youth and, ultimately, this country's educational needs.

The biggest boondoggle is teachers' pensions, which are calculated on 70% of their best five year's average earnings for life

I have devoted a couple of columns to excessive teacher salaries, which garnered more reaction than anything else I have written, because no one had published the calculations until then. I noted that the average elementary public school teacher in Toronto, who decided to work only the minimum hours required by their collective agreement, earned a wage of $78 an hour (likely that has gone up). In Ontario, the 2012 Drummond Report found about half of teachers were at the top level of their salary range, at nearly $95,000. This puts them well into the top 10% of income earners, according to Statistics Canada's National Household Survey from 2011. In Alberta, the average teacher now earns $99,300. Canadian teachers are among the three highest paid in the world. And I did not even take into consideration their benefits.

But the biggest boondoggle is teachers' pensions, which are calculated on 70% of their best five year's average earnings for life with inflation adjustments. They can work part-time, then go full-time for the last five years and retire with a massive pension for life, while supplementing that income with work as an occasional public school teacher or a full-time private school one. We are subsidizing our most experienced teachers to leave at age 55, on a full pension, while they double-dip. While teachers do contribute half of their pensions, the taxpayers pay the other half. That assumes there is no shortfall and pressure for taxpayers to make it up.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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