Alberta's health minister weathered another storm Thursday as he was criticized for his decision to pay his new executive assistant double the salary most deputy ministers make.
Janet Davidson, who left her post as administrator of Alberta Health Services Thursday, will be paid $580,000 a year as new deputy minister for Alberta Health.
The decision comes on the same day CBC News reported that AHS threatened to cut around 2,500 surgeries from Edmonton-area hospitals due to budget problems.
"Albertans have a hard time trusting the PCs when they do things like this," NDP health critic David Eggen said.
While the current pay for deputy ministers is not readily available, an October 2011 document set their pay at $264,576 —which means Davidson's is more than twice that rate.
Davidson was made AHS administrator in June after Health Minister Fred Horne fired the entire health board when it refused to reverse a decision to award executive bonuses.
Davidson's experience needed: minister
Davidson is also a former assistant deputy minister for Alberta Health and head of a health centre in Mississauga, Ont.
Horne said there is work to be done in Alberta's ministry, and that Davidson's experience is money well spent.
"She has tremendous expertise in health policy, in quality assurance, in funding systems for health," Horne said.
Horne said Davidson's elevated salary will only last two years. He said the salaries of all senior health executives will be reviewed, but made no promises that salaries would be cut.
"We want this to continue to be a destination for the best talent from from the country and globally. But we also want to be mindful of the fact that these are hard-earned taxpayers dollars that are being allocated."
Meanwhile, the newly-appointed administrator for AHS, John Cowell, addressed another controversial decision by the health board. As CBC News first reported, emergency department triage doctor positions at all Edmonton hospitals were eliminated over the summer.
Cowell, who is former chair of the watchdog agency Health Quality Council of Alberta, said he would review that decision in his new role.
"Those are just the kinds of issues that are going to catch my attention," Cowell said.