There’s a lot of disagreement about what constitutes an appropriate wage these days. Those in the “living wage” camp say anything less than $18 an hour is exploitative. Others contend that $100,000 might be a bit too much for a subway ticket taker. And a certain Toronto couple named Eric and Ilsa will tell you that $360,000 a year is barely enough to scrape by.
The National Post can’t answer these deep questions, but we can tell you what everyone else is making. In a project spanning months, we scrolled through dozens of salary reports, labour agreements and news articles to paint a picture of what 21st century Canadians are taking home.
Use the graphic below to compare your salary to thousands of your fellow Canadians, or read the highlights below for some of the most surprising findings.
Quebec public servants earn remarkably less than those in the rest of Canada
With its penchant to absorb 11-figure transfer payments, La Belle Province has justifiably earned a reputation for spending money. But at least in the realm of payrolls, Quebec runs a surprisingly tight ship. From teachers to police officers to firefighters, annual wages can be as much as $10,000 lower than equivalent positions in Ontario and Western Canada. The disparity is maintained in part because real estate and utilities are far lower, and Quebecers benefit from local perks such as $7/day daycare. There are also cultural and language barriers. While a New Brunswick middle manager might move to Saskatchewan for a $10,000 pay hike, it’s a tougher sell for a Montrealer reluctant to abandon their spacious co-op apartment, access to good bagels and the chance to see Andre-Philippe Gagnon live at the Bell Centre.
André-Philippe Gagnon. He’s big in Quebec.
Alberta has the highest paid everything
Alberta’s Rachel Notley is Canada’s highest paid provincial leader. Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi is Canada’s highest paid mayor. It has the country’s highest paid teachers. The average wage for an oil and gas worker is $108,730 — more than double the average wage for a forestry or manufacturing worker. If you’ve ever wondered why half of Atlantic Canada suddenly packed up and moved to a frigid corner of Canada regularly attacked by forest fires and floods, here’s your answer (also, the rodeo scene is pretty great).
There are streetcar drivers who make more money than CF-18 pilots
Around the world, militaries are a strange realm in which young people are paid middling wages in order to operate equipment that costs most than the town where they grew up. The pilots of Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets earn between $75,000 and $126,000 per year. Meanwhile, according to the Ontario Sunshine list, there are instances in which the operators of decidedly less deadly Toronto streetcars have made $145,501 per year.
Left: Mike Drew/Calgary Sun/Postmedia Network Right: Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network They both stand on guard for thee in their own way.
Pharmacists are paid surprisingly well
Remember this the next time you ask a pharmacist where you can find the Doritos: You are speaking to a highly trained medical professional who is compensated accordingly. The median salary for a Canadian pharmacist is $95,680, well above the fellow employees of whatever Wal-Mart or London Drugs where they’ve hung their shingle. That’s a good thing. Unlike most people behind retail counters, pharmacists are sifting through stuff that, if mishandled, can kill you, maim you or leave you with an opiate addiction.
Flight attendants are paid surprisingly little
The absolute top pay rate for an Air Canada flight attendant working the minimum guaranteed number of hours (65 per month) is $39,952. For WestJet, which guarantees 82 hours of work per month, it’s a slightly more respectable $42,676. For the entry level flight attendant, meanwhile, pay can be as low as $19,032 — slightly less than working a fulltime minimum wage job. The low wage is why online flight attendant forums are known to call their occupation “a lifestyle.” It’s a way to see the world’s capitals and potentially serve champagne to Billy Idol, but a terrible way to pay off student loans.
You also might have to wear this.
A Canadian minimum wage earner makes slightly more that the average Russian’s share of their national GDP
Right now, working a full-time minimum wage job will earn between $20,500 in B.C. and It’s not much in cities where a bachelor suite rents for $1500 a month and bus fare is $3.30, but it easily places that worker among the top five per cent of global income earners. The GDP per capita in the Russian Federation is $19964.64 per year, with the figure dropping to $9,000 in a rising economic power like China — and only $900 in Afghanistan. This, in a nutshell, is why Canadian immigrants can persistently be seen bringing the hustle.
A Vancouver house made more in a year than the city’s mayor
In 2000, someone bought Vancouver’s 3981 West 35th Ave for $739,000. Fourteen years later, they sold it for $3,038,000. For every year of ownership, the house gained $164,214 in value — narrowly edging it ahead of the $155,612 earned annually by Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson.
Why can’t you be more like the house?
Canadian police are some of the highest paid on the planet
The highest-paid constable in the London Metropolitan Police Service earns the equivalent of $67,757 per year. In Vancouver, meanwhile, a comparable $64,513 is what a recruit earns in their first year. An entry level New York City cop, meanwhile, is looking at $55,694 CDN per year. Compare to the RCMP, Canada’s most well-known police force, where a starting wage of $50,674 jumps to $82,108 after three years. In remote detachments, this can sometimes mean that the local cops are the richest people in town.
At times, director James Cameron has earned more per hour than an average Canadian actor has made in a year
Hailing from Kapuskasing, Ontario, James Cameron has the distinction of being responsible for the number one and the number two spot on the list of highest-grossing films. In 2010, when Avatar was selling out cinemas around the world, Cameron was raking in $40,000 per hour. That same year, the 2011 National Household Survey pegged the wage of the average Canadian actor at $17,480. Such is art.
James Cameron, who earned the equivalent of a luxury car in the time it took to capture this photo.
CFL players are only paid as much as a so-so lawyer
If Sidney Crosby invites Toronto Argonauts quarterback Ricky Ray for a weekend of Ferrari polo in Monte Carlo, it turns out Ray may not have enough disposable income to tag along. While leading players like Ray may earn up to half a million dollars, the average CFL player only earns about $80,000 per year. NHL players used to make this kind of money in the era of Bobby Orr and Paul Henderson, but after decades of expansion and increased exposure, average salaries now hover above $3 million. Unfortunately for the CFL, however, there’s very little chance Americans will take over their league and dramatically boost player values.