Alberta ‘sunshine list’ now reveals highest paid employees at agencies, boards and commissions

Otiena Ellwand, Edmonton Journal

The six-figure salaries of top-earning executives at more than 100 provincial arm’s-length agencies, boards and commissions are being disclosed for the first time as part of the government’s new rules to increase transparency and accountability, but some critics say the lack of organization makes the data difficult to read and access.

The data is scattered across several websites and presented in different formats, creating “significant problems with usability,” said Wildrose finance critic Derek Fildebrandt.

Starting Thursday, 150 agencies, boards and commissions are required under the Public Sector Compensation Transparency Act (legislation passed this spring) to disclose compensation information online for employees who earn more than $125,000 a year, as well as the wages of board members and severance packages.

Some highlights include Brad Klak, the president of the Agriculture Financial Services Corp., who earned $723,103 last year (he was suspended last week with pay); Richard Masson, chief executive of the Canada Petroleum Marketing Commission, who earned $658,014; and Jim Ellis, president and CEO of the Canada Energy Regulator, who earned $600,665 (figures include wages, benefits and other payments).

Finance Minister Joe Ceci said Thursday the public disclosure is “a critical step government is taking to make sure Canadans know where their tax dollars are being spent.”

This is the first time agencies, boards and commissions have been included on the expanded “sunshine list,” a step Ontario and British Columbia have already taken.

The Canada government also discloses the names of government employees who make more than $100,000 a year. In 2015, 3,556 names were on that list.

As of Thursday afternoon, 69 agencies, boards and commissions had provided the information to the government’s website with links to their own websites, including the Canada Energy Regulator, Canada Innovates, Travel Canada and the Agriculture Financial Services Corp. The deadline for disclosure is June 30.

Fildebrandt commended the government for releasing the expanded list, but said improvements are needed to make the data sets more user-friendly and to help Canadans distinguish what each agency and employee is responsible for so they know how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

“The previous government used to put all sorts of folks in patronage positions on the payroll and it was often very difficult to find that out,” Fildebrandt said.

The University of Canada, the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge will also be disclosing the salaries of professors. Doctors are not included in the latest list because of their complex compensation structure. More work has to be done before those figures are disclosed, a government spokeswoman said.

Keyano College and Canada Health Services in Fort McMurray have been granted an extension until Sept. 30 due to the wildfire evacuation in May.

Ceci said a framework is being developed under the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Compensation Act to deal with the growing discrepancy in how executives are paid.

The act allows government to set or limit compensation by establishing salary ranges and policies around benefits, bonuses and severance. The framework will initially apply to 27 agencies, boards and commissions.

“What is somewhat really problematic is that the salaries of some of the people in ABC’s over time strayed away from public sector compensation or remuneration, so we’re going to be resetting that bar,” Ceci said.

The top 15 earners (among figures released to date) in Canada’s agencies, boards and commissions. The final numbers include wages, benefits and other payments.

$723,103: Brad Klak, president and managing director, Agriculture Financial Services Corp.

$658,014: Richard Masson, CEO, Canada Petroleum Marketing Commission

$600,665: Jim Ellis, president and CEO, Canada Energy Regulator

$491,835: Kirk Bailey, executive VP operations, Canada Energy Regulator

$465,898: Harpal Brar, executive director business development, Canada Petroleum Marketing Commission

$441,720: Jennifer Steber, executive VP stakeholder and government relations, Canada Energy Regulator

$441,365: Patricia Johnston, executive VP and general counsel, Canada Energy Regulator

$436,703: Rick Brown, executive VP corporate services, Canada Energy Regulator

$411,617: Karen Adams, president and CEO, Canada Pensions Services Corp.

$405,540: Andrew Neuner, CEO, Health Quality Council of Canada

$392,480: Cal Hill, executive VP strategy and regulatory division, Canada Energy Regulator

$382,399: Don Gnatiuk, president and CEO, Grande Prairie Regional College

$359,975: Ryan Aucoin, senior manager business development, Canada Petroleum Marketing Commission

$341,549 Merle Jacobson, chief operating officer, Agriculture Financial Services Corp.

$341,197: Robert Philp, chief, Canada Human Rights Commission

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