This past week they have published a battery of "reports" that they claim show the public sector workers are being paid considerably more than their peers in the private sector. They have produced these reports for Alberta, Ontario, and British Columbia (so far). Presumably, this is because once you have set up the analysis for one province, it's pretty much boilerplate to apply it to other provinces with similar datasets available.
For the sake of simplicity, I will focus my commentary on the Alberta version of this report.
The Fraser Institute's approach to its work is pseudo academic at best. They make a show of citing sources, and so on. However, it is always problematic when they primarily cite their own past work in their analysis. The references in this paper boil down to:
a) Several Statistics Canada datasets and reports used as raw data.
b) 1 20 year old paper which presumably establishes a method for comparing private and public sector pay data. (Note: I am not able to locate a copy of this file in the resources I have access to, so I cannot verify this)
c) The Alberta Government's 2019 budget
d) 4 papers from the Fraser Institute which involve one or more of the same authors who wrote this report.
Why is this significant? Largely because self-citation in research work tends to lead to reinforcing the author's biases, and means that the author is not looking broadly in their field when doing their work. This is a fundamental flaw in the work.
The second aspect of the report that stands out to me is the "waving of the hand" at the discussion of methodology used. What little is provided barely passes at the idea that a future researcher could take the raw data and end up with the same results. A good example of this pops up early in the paper, where they describe doing an analysis using two models:
There are a number of framing issues in this report that I also take exception to. First, because they are working at such a high level, we don't really get to understand differences in the composition of the workforce, nor are we able to analyze if any discrepancies that exist are specific to particular disciplines. The use of what they euphemistically call "non-wage benefits" in their analysis is profoundly problematic, in part because the data around that subject is very limited, but also because the authors admit this and then proceed to use it anyhow to perpetuate the idea that public sector workers are overpaid.